Military sparks furor with new proposals

By Hamza Hendawi

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Nov. 3 2011 8:55 p.m. MDT

In this Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2011 photo, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, head of Egypt's ruling military council, points to a painting as he accompanies a visiting delegation at the defence ministry in Cairo, Egypt. Fears that Egypt's ruling generals are working to perpetuate their control has sent political parties and activists into a furor, threatening a "second revolution" as relations between the generals and the country's political forces, including groups that engineered Hosni Mubarak's ouster, hit a new low less than four weeks ahead of a key election.

Associated Press

CAIRO — Fear that Egypt's ruling generals are working to perpetuate their hold on power is causing a political furor, threatening a "second revolution" and sending relations between the generals and activists to new lows less than four weeks before a key election.

The outcry has been prompted by a proposal from the military-appointed Cabinet to shield the armed forces from any oversight and give the generals a veto over legislation dealing with military affairs. The measure also is designed to curtail the likely influence by Islamist lawmakers over the writing of a new constitution.

The proposal, which requires the adoption of the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to be binding, has united both Islamists and liberals — groups that helped engineer the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak — in its condemnation.

Egypt's best known reform proponent, Mohamed ElBaradei, decried 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," he said.

The Islamic fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood, the country's largest and most powerful political group, is leading the opposition to the document, saying it usurped the "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."

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 lawmakers 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 national policies.

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