CAIRO (AP) — Egypt’s military rulers have triggered a new public outcry with a proposal that critics see as an attempt to enshrine a supreme political role for themselves in the new constitution.
The furor is over a new government-sponsored proposal of overarching principles that would guide the drafting of a new constitution. The proposal only requires adoption by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to make it binding.
If approved, the measure would shield the military from parliamentary oversight, give it a veto over legislation dealing with its affairs and reduce the powers of parliament to select a panel to write the constitution.
The proposal also would declare the armed forces the protector of “constitutional legitimacy,” wording that is widely interpreted to mean giving the military final say over major policies.
Egypt’s best known reform proponent, Mohamed ElBaradei, described the document as “distorted” and demanded its withdrawal.
“There is a difference between a civilian democratic state that guarantees man’s basic rights and military guardianship.”
Critics say the document would create a military state-within-the-state and devalue the democratic system the military vowed to install when it took over after Hosni Mubarak was ousted in February in a popular uprising.
The uproar over the draft, which dominated the nation’s press Thursday, has deepened tension between political activists and rights groups and the military ahead of this month’s key parliamentary elections.
The proposal is widely thought to have been drafted at the behest of the military, which has dominated Egypt since officers seized power in a 1952 coup. All of Egypt’s four presidents have since hailed from the military and most of the top jobs at strategically located provinces, regional councils and state organizations are filled by retired generals.
Many activists see the document as an attempt by the military to retain power after parliamentary and presidential elections are held. Presidential elections are initially slated for late next year or early in 2013.
They say the military is hoping to create conditions on the ground that allow it to retain real power even after the country has an elected legislature, a new constitution and a civilian president.
The Islamic fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood, the country’s largest and most powerful political group, is leading the opposition to the document, saying it “raped people’s will.”
“This route goes against the will of the people, and will lead to another revolution,” said Saad el-Katatni, spokesman of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice party. “We call on the people of Egypt to reject the document to protect their rights.”
The proposal says 80 of the 100-member panel to be mandated to write the new constitution will not be members of parliament’s two chambers and will instead be drawn from a wide range of institutions, including the judiciary, universities and civil society groups. The rest will come from political groups represented in parliament’s two chambers.
It gives the military the right to veto the draft constitution if it contravenes the guidelines set in Deputy Prime Minister Ali al-Salmy’s proposal. If the 100-member panel rejects the military’s complaint, the dispute will be referred to the Supreme Constitutional Court, whose ruling would be binding.