Egypt army to outline president’s role, retain powers

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Egypt’s ruling generals will make a declaration that will give the newly elected president the power to appoint a cabinet, but legislative powers will for now go back to the army after parliament was dissolved, said official sources.

To Islamists and revolutionaries, the declaration – which will come hours after polls closed in a presidential race – will raise questions over whether the military has met a pledge to hand power to civilians by July 1. Many will see it as a bid to consolidate power in the hands of the army council, which took control after mass protests toppled Hosni Mubarak last year.

Elections to a new parliament would not now take place until a new constitution was drafted and approved by referendum, the sources said, adding that a constitution could be drawn up by a body appointed by the generals, rather than the old parliament, Reuters reports.

The state-run news agency confirmed the constitutional declaration would be issued on Monday but did not give details.

Until now, the president’s powers have not been clearly defined and the Supreme Constitutional Court’s decision on Thursday to dissolve the Islamist-led parliament elected this year added further uncertainty to Egypt’s troubled transition.
“In the absence of parliament, legislative powers move back to the military council, which has been in charge of the country and will hand over presidential powers to the president soon,” a military source told Reuters.
“The head of state will have the power to appoint a prime minister and cabinet ministers,” the source said, adding the president would also have powers to appoint other posts, such as a number of unelected members, around 10, to parliament.

The military council met a civilian body which advises the generals, along with other experts, on Sunday to discuss the declaration, a lawyer who attended the meeting said.
“The presidential powers which the military council held until now will now shift to the new president,” he said.

BROTHERHOOD OBJECTS

The Muslim Brotherhood, which dominated parliament, called the decision to dissolve the chamber a “coup” and said it showed the army was seeking to concentrate powers in its hands.

The speaker of the dissolved parliament, the Brotherhood’s Saad al-Katatni, also said the generals had no right to issue a constitutional declaration.

Katatni “stressed that the decision to dissolve parliament and the procedures following such decision is not based on any articles in the existing constitutional decree” after he met the generals on Sunday, his office said in a statement.

A day before it was dissolved last week, parliament had for a second time approved the formation of a special assembly to draft a new constitution. But like a first attempt to appoint members to such a body, it ran into opposition from liberals. Some have threatened to challenge the assembly again in court.

The new declaration on Monday will give the military council the right to form a new constitutional assembly if the latest one set up by parliament is dissolved by a court, as the first one was, the legal expert and army source said.

The declaration will also give the army “full control over military internal affairs including appointments and dismissals of military personnel and the defence budget”. Critics had said the budget for the armed forces should be transparent and overseen by parliament.

In a show of defiance, Katatni said that the existing constitutional assembly will convene on Monday to begin drafting a constitution. The members would meet in the upper house of parliament, which has not been dissolved.

Under the new declaration, the constitutional assembly, whether the one approved by parliament or one formed by the military council, would have three months to draft a constitution after which a referendum would be held on it.



Elections for a new parliament would then take place within a month. The legal expert said this could be in October or November.