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 would also 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,” he said.
The 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.”
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 Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak was ousted in February in a popular uprising.
The uproar over the draft, which dominated the nation’s press on Thursday, has deepened tension between political activists and rights groups and the military ahead of this month’s key parliamentary elections.
It came after the arrest earlier this week by the military of one of Egypt’s best known bloggers and activists for his alleged role in sectarian clashes on Oct. 9 in which 27 people, mostly Christians, were killed and hundreds wounded.
Alaa Abdel-Fattah’s arrest sent shock waves through the community of activists and pro-reform groups behind Mubarak’s ouster. They said the move showed a systematic campaign to discredit them as the generals build their own image as the nation’s foremost patriots.