The country’s ruling Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) has issued a ‘complimentary constitutional declaration’ late on Sunday, only hours after initial results of the runoff round of presidential elections started coming in. The declaration outlines the powers of the next president and sets up how the anticipated new constitution is to be drafted and ratified.
The military initially announced it would take over legislative duties after the dissolution of parliament and this new declaration solidifies that notion. There has also been talk of such a declaration over the past few weeks as it became more apparent that a new constitution would not be drafted in time before the presidential elections.
The declaration also gives SCAF full executive power over all aspects related to military affairs, stripping it away from the president who cannot declare war or ask the military to secure the interior in times of unrest without approval from SCAF. Furthermore, the president is not the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, a title held by all of Egypt’s rulers since the time of 19th century ruler Mohamed Ali. He is not allowed to appoint the defence minister and SCAF will be in charge of all military appointments, promotions and retirement decisions.
The military’s powers of detaining and putting civilians on trial are to be decided by legislation, which SCAF will control until the election of a new parliament.
Elections for the parliament are set to take place after the drafting and ratification of the new constitution. According to article 60 B, SCAF has the right to form a new constituent assembly tasked with writing the constitution in case the parliamentary-formed assembly “encounters problems preventing it from doing its work”.
The new assembly would be given three months to draft a constitution which will be subject to a nationwide referendum. Parliamentary elections would then be called after the constitution is ratified meaning SCAF will not be handing power before the end of the year if not later, going back on their promise of handing over all power to a civilian government by 30 June, 2012.
However, not only does SCAF get to appoint the assembly’s members, it also gets to veto any constitutional articles or clauses the assembly drafts before the constitution goes to referendum.
Article 60 B1 states that the president, SCAF head, prime minister, Supreme Council of the Judiciary, or a fifth of the assembly itself has the right to veto any clause or article if it goes against the “principles of the revolution or the general principles of previous Egyptian constitutions”.
The assembly would then be required to vote again on the problematic clause and if it insists on implementing it then the clause is referred to the Supreme Constitutional Court for a final and binding ruling on whether or not it stands, leaving ultimate practical authority resting in the hands of SCAF.