The declaration, published in the state gazette, had been expected, but its details indicate that the military has asserted far greater authority than observers had anticipated. Under the order, the president will have no control over the military’s budget or leadership and will not be authorized to declare war without the consent of the ruling generals.
The document said the military would soon name a group of Egyptians to draft a new constitution, which will be subject to a public referendum within three months. Once a new charter is in place, a parliamentary election will be held to replace the Islamist-dominated lower house that was dissolved Thursday after the country’s high court ruled that one-third of the chamber’s members had been elected unlawfully.
“With this document, Egypt has completely left the realm of the Arab Spring and entered the realm of military dictatorship,” said Hossam Bahgat, a prominent human rights activist. “This is worse than our worst fears.”
The declaration left little doubt that the generals have moved aggressively to preserve and expand their privileged status after a transitional period that revealed the significant appeal of Islamist politicians. It also indicates the military leadership’s concern about accountability if a system of civilian rule with checks and balances were to take root.
The Obama administration, with the president spending the day in Chicago and much of his national security staff in Mexico preparing for this week’s Group of 20 summit there, had no initial reaction to the new developments. But the decree appeared likely to compound the administration’s frustration over its waning influence in Egypt.
Less than 48 hours before the declaration was issued, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta telephoned Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, head of Egypt’s ruling military council, to underscore “the need to ensure a full and peaceful transition to democracy,” the Pentagon said.
Thursday’s dissolution of parliament also prompted Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the appropriations subcommittee in charge of foreign aid, to warn the State Department against disbursing any of this year’s $1.3 billion in military aid to Egypt.
Brotherhood decries order
The Egyptian military’s declaration was issued just 20 minutes after the polls closed Sunday night at 10. The campaign of Mohamed Morsi, the Brotherhood’s candidate, said a limited sample of preliminary vote counts from across the country indicated that the Islamist leader was ahead of rival Ahmed Shafiq, who was the last prime minister appointed by Hosni Mubarak and was widely considered the generals’ preferred candidate.