The Danger of Egypt's Military Takeover

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Some call it a military coup, others call it the death of the Arab Spring but however you want to label it, the sweeping new constitutional powers obtained by Egypt's ruling military is a troubling development. On Monday, as Reuters' Marwa Awad and Yasmine Saleh report, both candidates in Egypt's presidential runoff claimed victory as election officials withheld official polling results. The Muslim Brotherhood's Mohammed Morsey claims he won by two to four points while former Hosni Mubarak operative Ahmed Shafik claimed he was actually in the lead. There's no saying what will happen next but observers and reporters fear the worst. What could this power grab mean? Some scenarios:

Egypt's military is more powerful than ever. The BBC's Jon Leyne reports that the newfound powers of the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (Scarf) give the regime unprecedented control of Egyptian society. "The constitutional declaration issued by the Scaf effectively gives it legislative powers, control over the budget and over who writes the permanent constitution following mass street protests that toppled Mr Mubarak... It also strips the president of any authority over the army." Former presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahi said the declaration was a "seizure of the future of Egypt," adding "We will not accept domination by any party." While the military has promised to transfer power to a candidate by June, The Associated Press' Hamza Hendawi reports, nobody's confident that will actually happen.

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The military could prove worse than Mubarak's regime. The Sydney Morning Herald's Paul McGeough is deeply pessimistic about the junta's leadership. "The generals have amassed more power for themselves than the ousted dictatorship had, even to the point of reinstating the worst aspects of the hated emergency laws," he writes. "They have created, deliberately I suspect, an electoral mess that is unlikely to produce a legitimate, unifying president - and thereby, they create the justification for their argument that they must retain the power to watch over him. At the same time they have cleverly debased the judiciary, so if anyone has a complaint or grievance, where do they take it?" 

This spells the death of the Arab Spring. Reuters' Samia Nakhoui has the big picture take on what the power grab means. "For many Egyptians their revolution, which followed Tunisia's, now seems victim of a coup by generals who changed the chief executive, Mubarak, but have not touched the deep state that kept him and his predecessors in power for six decades," Nakhoui writes. "Since the army toppled the colonial-era monarchy in 1952, it has built massive wealth and commercial interests across industries, followed by a close U.S. alliance that came with the signing in 1979 of a peace treaty with Israel. With this web of interests and alliances, it is unlikely it will cede its power." Nakhoui says the fear of the Brotherhood overtaking the military's power may force the military's hand in retaining control of the entire country beyond the summer. 

Chaos ensues elsewhere. Underscoring the worrying security situation in Egypt, The Washington Post's Joel Greenberg reports that gunmen who entered Israel from Egypt killed a border fence worker on Monday which resulted in a retaliation by Israeli soldiers who killed two of the shooters. "Defense Minister Ehud Barak said the incident, along with the launching of two rockets at southern Israel over the weekend, indicated 'a disturbing deterioration in Egyptian control of security in the Sinai.'" 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.