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Public Outcry Causes Egypt’s Cabinet to Drop Proposal for New Constitution

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Douglas Mpuga

In Egypt, a public outcry has led the cabinet to drop a proposal for the new constitution that would have shielded the army from parliamentary oversight.

The planned change would have given the ruling military council exclusive authority to approve any legislation on the army’s internal affairs.

Military men have ruled Egypt since a 1952 military coup. The military council took power after President Hosni Mubarak was overthrown by a popular revolt on February 11.

“The current cabinet is an ally of the military council,” said Walid Phares, an expert on the Middle East and author of The Coming Revolution: Struggle for Freedom in the Middle East.

He said the council is trying to strike a balance between the forthcoming government, which he said will probably be a coalition led by the Muslim Brotherhood on one hand and those who will become the next opposition [secular and minorities] on the other.

“The current cabinet wants to ensure that when the Muslim Brotherhood comes to power, they won’t have the ability to either dismantle the secular body of the army or put pressure on them,” said Phares.

“It’s a triangle of struggle,” he added, “In the center you have the military, the Muslim brotherhood on one hand, and the secular and Coptic minority on the other.”

Phares said since the downfall of [Hosni] Mubarak, the military council has been moving to ensure that whoever will next come to power won’t have enough strength to dismantle the power of the military.

In addition, he said, they [military] have tried  to establish good ties with the United States to ensure continued financial aid.

“I believe that there is an agreement between the military and the Muslim Brotherhood,” he said.  “The military will not go against the Brotherhood but they [military] want to set the limits.”

Phares said the military now controls the economic and financial nerve center of the country in addition to the national security and the political process.

“But the military is likely to lose the political process after the elections,” he said, “...so the battle of today is really for tomorrow. They [military] are trying to have an insurance policy that whoever will come in power in the future does not go against them.”

He said the actual pioneers of the revolution [youths, women, labor unions, middle class, civil society] – those who actually rose against Mubarak – have been bypassed by Islamists and allies of pan-Arabists. “They are frustrated because they feel they are caught in a political game between the Islamists and militarists.”

“The problem of those youths and civil society,” said Phares, “is that they did not have enough time to organize their new reformist democratic parties, so they have to play the role of the next opposition.”

Parliamentary elections are set to start on November 28 and last until March.

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