Thursday, December 8, 2011

SCAF reiterates that it will have a final say in the make up of a constitutional assembly

A rare press conference by the Egyptian leaders of the army, SCAF, on Wednesday for the foreign press in Egypt, confirmed once more that the army wants to hold a decisive grip on events in Egypt, whatever the results of the current election are going to be.  
 Major General Mokhtar el-Mulla – a member of SCAF – said the upcoming parliament would not be representative of all Egyptian people. Therefore those appointed in a 100 members counting assembly to write a fresh constitution must also be approved by the interim cabinet and a newly-created "advisory council" of intellectuals, civilian politicians and media personalities, both of which fall under the control of SCAF..
General Mokhtar al-Mulla
Mulla, who was speaking to a small group of mostly American reporters, made clear that the ruling military council, as the executive, will maintain ultimate authority over the functioning of the new parliament and government.
Asked whether the new council is an attempt to limit the influence of the hard-line Salafis, who want to impose strict Islamic law on Egypt, Mulla said: "Absolutely. ... The Egyptian people won't allow this to happen."
"There will be standards agreed upon by all the Egyptian people," Mulla said. "This is not out of mistrust of the parliament. What we are seeing is free and fair elections ... but it certainly doesn't represent all sectors of society."
What Mulla said was not completely new. The Deputy Prime Minister of the former cabinet, Ali al-Selmi, presented a paper at the end of November which was thought to have been inspired by SCAF, and which contained the idea that the constituent assembly would consist of about 20 parliamentarians and the rest to be chosen from all strata of Egyptian society.
The paper raised a lot of anger at the time, from all parties and activists, but particularly from the islamists, the Muslim Brotherhood and the salafists, who were already somewhat convinced that they would obtain a majority in the new parliament. The the fact that SCAF reiterated ts position drew anew criticism from this side.Youssri Hamad, spokesman for the salafist Al-Nour party, said the military council is again trying to reassure the liberals in society at the expense of legitimate demands by popular Islamist groups. He called it a continuation of the Mubarak regime policies that ostracized Islamists. "We have a significant presence in parliament. They must also protect our opinions and protect our presence in governing institutions," he said.
Saad al-Katatny, the Secretary General of the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, said his group will continue to object to the military rulers' attempts to force its hand. He said his group agrees that all sectors, and not the parliament, must be represented in the constituent. But he objected to the military council's attempt to guide or oversee the process. "Why does the council want to interfere in the will [of the people]?" he said.

The discussion with the journalists was at times rather heated, when question were asked about the role of the army in recent clashes which have left more than 40 dead and thousands injured. Mulla acknowledged that the military had ultimate control over security affairs, but denied that the armed forces would ever commit violence against the Egyptian people. He brushed away any suggestions that live bullets had been used against protesters, in spite of all evidence brought by doctors and human rights activists. Mulla also refused to discuss the cases of the imprisoned blogger Maikel Nabil, who was found guilty by a military tribunal of insulting the army earlier this year and is on hunger strike during his appeal, or the case of  Alaa Abdel Fattah, another blogger who was arrested for alleged crimes he committed during the Coptic demonstration at Maspero n October which was broken up violently by the army at the cost of some 24 people killed.      

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