The defence minister and the general commander of the armed forces has always been the head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), according to armed forces spokesman Ahmed Ali.
Ali’s statement came on Saturday commenting on a number of presidential decrees issued by interim President Adly Mansour on Thursday. Mansour issued one decree on the new formation of SCAF, another regarding the new formation of the National Defence Council (NDC) and a third decree regarding defence affairs and the armed forces.
Ali said that the decrees were issued to comply with changes made in the new constitution, approved in January by 98.1%.
According to the new formation, the state’s Minister of Defence is the head of SCAF and the chief of staff is deputy head. Should the president attend any of SCAF’s meetings, he would lead them, being the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, the latter per Article 152 in the new constitution.
The armed forces spokesman cited presidential decrees 198/1968 and 365/1989, saying that both of which stated that the Minister of Defence is the head of the SCAF during its meetings in the absence of the president.
The State Information Service, nevertheless, states on its official website that; “during normal circumstances, the president heads the SCAF, being the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.” The website published the old formation of the SCAF, consisting of 21 members, including the president as head of the SCAF and the defence minister as deputy head.
Ali said the SCAF specialises in examining matters concerning the armed forces, adding that all its duties are military-oriented. The NDC and the National Security Council, nevertheless, have a “different nature”, Ali said.
According to Mansour’s presidential decree, the National Defence Council is headed by the president.
Article 2 of Mansour’s presidential decree states that the defence minister calls for a SCAF convention once every three months or whenever necessity dictates it. It also gives the president the right to call upon the SCAF to convene. Ali added that the president usually attends the SCAF meetings during national holidays, official events, or when his presence is deemed necessary.
The new decree raised questions concerning the defence minister’s authorities.
Some constitutional experts have already raised concerns regarding the armed forces’ growing authorities under the new constitution. Article 234 of the constitution states that the appointment of the Minister of Defence is contingent upon the approval of the SCAF for the next two presidential terms.