Arab winter: Muslim Brotherhood wins presidency as Egyptian military seizes control

Actually, it’s the Brotherhood itself that’s claiming their guy won the presidency. Official results are still forthcoming, so it’s still possible that the military will rig the vote to make Mubarak’s former prime minister, Ahmed Shafik, the winner. Then again, since they’ve already decided to preempt the election by declaring themselves the country’s supreme power, why not go ahead and let Morsi, the Brotherhood’s candidate, be president? Maybe the MB will be satisfied with a power-sharing agreement with the military; if so, the junta will be able to claim some shred of legitimacy for its rule.

Shafik, the old-regime rubber stamp, or Morsi, the democratically elected figurehead? Dilemmas, dilemmas.

The military’s new charter is the latest in a series of swift steps that the generals have taken to tighten their grasp on power just at the moment when they had promised to hand over to elected civilians the authority that they assumed on the ouster of Hosni Mubarak last year. Their charter gives them control of all laws and the national budget, immunity from any oversight and the power to veto a declaration of war.

After dissolving the Brotherhood-led Parliament elected four months ago, and locking out its lawmakers, the generals on Sunday night also seized control of the process of writing a permanent constitution. State news media reported that the generals had picked a 100-member panel to draft it

Though final results were not available, Brotherhood supporters called the apparent victory by the Islamist candidate, Mr. Morsi, a rebuke to the military’s power grab. “Down, down with military rule!” a crowd at Mr. Morsi’s campaign headquarters chanted as he prepared to give a victory speech shortly after 4 a.m. Monday.

According to the BBC, the military’s decree also guaranteed them, ahem, “jobs for life.” Remember, Egypt’s parliament has already appointed a 100-member panel of its own to write the new constitution, so if the MB and military can’t hammer out a compromise, you’ll have competing bodies drafting competing documents. And since the country’s supreme court has already ruled that parliament was illegally elected, it’s a fait accompli that their panel’s constitution will be thrown out. Said one Egyptian human rights activist of the military’s power grab, “With this document, Egypt has completely left the realm of the Arab Spring and entered the realm of military dictatorship. This is worse than our worst fears.”

The MB will dig in now and try to organize a new revolutionary uprising to get the military to reinstate parliament and share power. Question: How will Tantawi and the rest of the generals respond? If they crack down, they might find themselves dealing with an insurgency, and that in turn might turn into civil war as anti-Islamist factions join with the army to try to crush the Brotherhood. I assume that, rather than face that, the generals will instead try to buy the Brotherhood off, whether by sharing funds or by cracking down on the MB’s Islamist rivals, the Salafists, instead. In fact, they held a press conference this afternoon in which a military spokesman insisted they’ll hand over power to the president in a “grand ceremony” before the end of the month, which I guess means … what? That they’re planning to rig the election for Shafik after all? They can’t hand over power to Morsi unless and until the Brotherhood agrees to leave the army and its many money-making endeavors alone. Has that deal already quietly been made or is it in the works?

Oh, and if you’re wondering why the military has granted itself veto power over declarations of war, that’s because not only are there various jihadist groups now apparently roaming around the Sinai looking to harass Israel, but there are claims that the Brotherhood itself ordered a recent Hamas rocket attack. That’s one bit of leverage that the MB has over the army — coordinating some sort of provocation with Hamas that might draw Egypt into a conflict with Israel, which the military of course would rather avoid. All the more reason for them to make a deal with the Islamists.

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David Strom 5:21 PM on December 09, 2022