“This is ridiculous, and it confirms that we’re facing a new dictatorship,” Mourad Mohammed Aly, a spokesman for the Morsi campaign, said in a phone interview.
The move comes after the country’s top judges, who were appointed by Mubarak, issued a ruling that dissolved the lower house of parliament, where the Brotherhood held nearly half the seats after elections last year.
The constitutional declaration will be binding at least until a new charter is approved. But because the generals will appoint the body that will draft that document, they are expected to ensure that the new constitution leaves them with continued power and shields them from scrutiny and prosecution.
After Mubarak’s ouster from the presidency, the generals portrayed themselves as champions of the revolution. But revolutionaries have since accused the military leaders of mishandling the transition and working to preserve their own interests. Last fall, in the face of a revolt against military rule that led to a security crackdown, the generals agreed to speed up the transition to civilian rule by holding a presidential vote no later than the end of this month.
“This makes it impossible to speak of a transfer to civilian rule at the end of June,” Heba Morayef, a Cairo-based researcher with Human Rights Watch, said Sunday night. “It was a soft coup to start with, but now it’s pretty blatant.”
Trading fraud allegations
Shafiq’s campaign issued a statement Sunday accusing the Brotherhood of “systemic” fraud, including ballot stuffing, voter bribing, voter intimidation and attacks near polling stations.
The Brotherhood’s violations, the statement said, prove that the Islamist group “does not believe in freedom of choice and democracy unless this democracy brings them to power.”
The statement said the Shafiq campaign filed more than 100 complaints of electoral violations with the presidential election commission. Aly, Morsi’s spokesman, rejected the charges, insisting instead that Shafiq’s camp had manipulated the vote.
Independent observers have not alleged large-scale fraud in the runoff vote, which was conducted Saturday and Sunday. But Sunday night’s allegations offered a taste of the contentiousness to come once a winner is declared.
The dissolution of parliament enraged Muslim Brotherhood leaders. The speaker of parliament, Mohamed Saad Katatny, issued a statement Sunday night after meeting with the generals that decried the appointment of a new panel to draft the charter.
Katatny reiterated that Brotherhood legislators intend to attend a scheduled session of parliament Tuesday, a move that could provoke a confrontation between the Islamist lawmakers and security forces.
Other prominent politicians called on Egyptians to resist the military’s actions. Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, a former Brotherhood member who was a presidential candidate in the first round of voting, called the constitutional declaration a “full military coup” in a message on Twitter.
Mona El-Ghobashy, a political science professor at Barnard College, said the document puts the military beyond reproach. It is a role that the armed forces have taken for granted for decades because Egyptian leaders have hailed from the ranks of the military.
“The military stands over and above everyone else, elected by no one and unaccountable to anyone,” she said in an e-mailed statement.
Staff writer Karen DeYoung in Washington and special correspondent Ingy Hassieb in Cairo contributed to this report.