Egypt: Not yet divorce

April 2nd, 2012

Published on Al-Ahram weekly online, by Dina Ezzat, 29 March – 4 April 2012.

Speculation over the fate of the presidential elections is already rife, however hushed the tones. Just weeks ahead of the scheduled poll and some political sources are suggesting it could be delayed.

“It is a scenario that should not be excluded. I am not saying it is happening, but it could,” says one source close to the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF).  

The delay, he suggests, could come about should the constitutional court rule that parliament be dissolved. In such a case the political process in play since Hosni Mubarak was ousted from power on 11 February last year would have to be re-modified.

Campaign staff members of the key presidential candidates say they detect no intention on the part of SCAF to take such a risky route.

“The political cost would be high and everybody, SCAF included, will be paying the price. To further delay the presidential elections means the already slim prospects for stability would be eliminated,” said one campaign advisor. Another suggested that while such a delay might “help SCAF find a candidate for president” it would tarnish both SCAF and Egypt’s image

“It would serve to confirm the many rumours that SCAF always intended to hold on to power and would render Egypt a no-go area for donors and foreign investors,” suggested another.

Political activists, who have long viewed the transitional phase as undermining the aspirations of the 25 January Revolution, would interpret the delay as going back to square one.

“It would mean Mubarak left only to be replaced by SCAF. This would be unacceptable to all revolutionaries,” says activist Mina Nagui.

Dissolving parliament, viewed by many as a necessary prelude to delaying presidential elections, is technically the prerogative of the constitutional court, and any court decision could be affected by political developments … //

… Sources say in recent days the MB has retreated from nominating a presidential candidate from either its own ranks or those of the FJP. The Brotherhood’s reneging on earlier promises that it would not field a presidential candidate was perceived by SCAF as an attempt to flex muscle.

Brotherhood leaders seemed to be suggesting that if they cannot decide the fate of the government they could still control not only parliament and the constituent assembly but the presidency as well.

“Delays over the announcement of the name of the group’s presidential candidate suggest the plan might be dropped all together,” says one MB member.

Should SCAF and the MB reach agreement over the fate of the government, constitution and the presidency, then the collapse of the current political process, including delaying presidential elections, could be avoided. But it is far from certain to tell whether this would mean political forces — whose representatives have already walked out of the constituent assembly in protest against the hegemony imposed by the Islamists — will be willing to accept the deal and play along.

Some of those who withdrew from the assembly are unwilling to continue to accept whatever scraps come their way courtesy of a deal reached between the Brotherhood and SCAF. Deliberations on what to do next are underway among the political forces that have so far been effectively marginalised.

Meanwhile presidential candidates are gearing up to garner support for an election they insist must be held as planned.

Earlier this week Mansour Hassan, widely seen as the SCAF-Muslim Brotherhood candidate indicated he would not run, while Ayman Nour, a long-time opponent of the Mubarak regime and a former MP, joined the race on Wednesday following a decision by the head of SCAF Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi to drop all criminal charges made against him during the last few years of the former regime. The charges had so far blocked his attempt to stand in Egypt’s first post-revolution presidential elections. (full text).

Links:

Supreme Council of the Armed Forces SCAF on en.wikipedia;

Freedom and Justice Party FJP (Egypt), on en.wikipedia;

Muslim Brotherhood MB, on en.wikipedia;

Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies ACPSS /about.

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