DEBKAfile Exclusive Report June 14, 2012, 6:19 PM
Ahmed Shafiq vs Muhammad Morsi in presidential contest
Egypt’s transitional military government assumed legislative powers after the supreme constitutional court Thursday, June 14, declared invalid rules governing the parliamentary elections earlier this year which handed control to the two Islamist parties. Because one-third of the seats were elected illegally, the entire chamber is illegal and must dissolve. Egyptians therefore found they faced a new general election for all 498 seats in parliament two days before they vote in the presidential runoff. The Muslim Brotherhood announced it accepts the court’s ruling although it represents a major setback to its political aspirations.
The highest court in Egypt also overturned a Muslim Brotherhood-initiated law that would have disqualified former Mubarak prime minister Ahmed Shafiq from running against the MB’s Brotherhood’s Muhammad Morsi in the presidential runoff Saturday and Sunday. Shafiq therefore stays in the race.
DEBKAfile: Because the parliamentary constitutional assembly is prevented from writing a new charter to determine the extent of the new president’s powers, the powers of the winner of the presidential election, whether Shafiq or Morsi, remains undefined.
The constitution court’s two decisions send the democratic process back to square one and delay the transition of government from the SCAF military council to civilian hands until new elections are held.
DEBKAfile reported Wednesday:
Egypt’s constitutional court Thursday, June 14, declared invalid rules governing the parliamentary elections earlier this year which handed control to the two Islamist parties. Egyptian TV has just announced that after one-third of the seats were voided, parliament is to be dissolved and a new election is to be held.
The court also declared unconstitutional a Muslim Brotherhood-initiated law that would have disqualified former Mubarak prime minister Ahmed Shafiq from running against the MB’s Brotherhood’s Muhammad Morsi in the presidential runoff Saturday and Sunday.
DEBKAfile: Because the parliamentary constitutional assembly is prevented from writing a new charter to determine the extent of the new president’s powers, the powers of the winner of the presidential election, whether Shafiq or Morsi, remain undefined.
The constitution court’s two decisions Thursday are a major setback for the Muslim Brotherhood. They also send the democratic process back to square one and delay the transition of government from the SCAF military council to civilian hands until new elections are held.
Contesting the television broadcast, lawyers who heard the court rulings are not clear about the next stage of the crisis. Some question the need for a new general election and argue that only the one-third of the seats were voided and only they should be put up for re-election.
DEBKAfile reported Wednesday:
The Obama administration is girding up for the shock of Egypt becoming the first Arab country, and the most populous, to be ruled by the Muslim Brotherhood. The last of three secret polls US intelligence conducted in Egypt assigned the MB contender Muhammad Morsi a 70 percent win of the presidential election runoff, Saturday-Sunday, June 16-17, against former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq’s 30 percent, according to DEBKAfile’s exclusive sources.
Although such polls often miss the mark, the US, Israel and the Middle East appear to be facing this fast-approaching prospect.
Egypt’s transitional government the Supreme Military Council (SCAF) has publicly pledged to transfer power to civilian control on July 1 whomsoever wins the election. There are signs of preparations for this game-changer in Washington, though not in Jerusalem – unless they are taking place in secret – although Israel’s strategic and regional situation faces radical change.
At the same time, as high-placed American sources monitoring events in Egypt point out, the incoming president’s powers are still undefined and the SCAF may hold off transferring authority until they are.
Defining the extent of presidential authority is one of the tasks up to the 100-member Egyptian Constitutional Assembly, which only began work Wednesday, June 13. It is impossible to predict the content of its final document, although the body has a Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi Nour majority.
Furthermore, a judicial body, Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court, is due to hand down critical rulings Thursday, June 14, just two days before the presidential election. They promise major repercussions for voting patterns and the status of the two contenders and their parties.
One SCC recommendation is to abolish as unconstitutional the law passed by the Islamist-dominated parliament in April barring senior Mubarak-era officials (such as Ahmed Shafiq) from running for president.
The SCC may also throw out the electoral laws under which The Brotherhood and the Salafist party gained 75 percent of seats in parliament, order it its dissollution and call a new general election.
If confirmed, these rulings could produce a Brotherhood president without constitutional powers or parliamentary backing. In these circumstances, Muhammad Morsi would be too weak to govern, or even become a figurehead, and the SCAF would stay in power.
All this is of course speculative, DEBKAfile’s sources report. No one can tell for sure how Egypt’s first venture into full democracy will turn out.
The Muslim Brotherhood’s violent campaign tactics have meanwhile had some unforeseen consequences and created unexpected bedfellows.
Gangs of Islamist thugs have gone about burning Shafiq’s campaign branches, breaking up his public rallies and attacking the homes of his supporters and families. They turn up with loudspeaker cars on the fringes of pro-Shafiq rallies and shout slogans saying he should be hanged after the ousted ruler Hosni Mubarak was sentenced to life in prison for lesser crimes.
Those tactics have absurdly sent some of the democratic and liberal forces which staged the Tahir Square revolution for toppling Mubarak rallying behind his last prime minister and adherent, as the lesser evil.
However, those tactics have a more sinister side.
DEBKAfile’s intelligence sources report that local gangs of Islamist thugs are linking up into a nationwide organization, for which the Brotherhood is setting up regional headquarters. In Cairo this week, a central headquarters began coordinating their activities with a fleet of vehicles ferrying squads between districts for creating mayhem.
The Brotherhood’s gangs are acquiring a hierarchical structure resembling the embryonic paramilitary militias which surfaced in the early years of Iran’s Shiite revolution in the late 1970s and early 1980s and evolved into Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps.
This manifestation will not disappear after elections are over but will be there to stay as part of Egypt’s political and street landscape, whoever is elected president. That is further cause for trepidation in the US and Israel.