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memri
August 24, 2012 No.
4908

Egyptian President Muhammad Mursi Rescinds The SCAF's Authority

Following the August 5, 2012 terror attack near the Egypt-Israel border that left 16 Egyptian soldiers dead, Egyptian President Muhammad Mursi launched a military campaign called "Operation Eagle" to purge Sinai of terrorists. The failure of Egypt's security apparatuses to prevent the attack provided Mursi with the momentum needed to reclaim the presidential authorities that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) had taken for itself on the eve of his inauguration.[1] This failure also enabled Mursi to enact a comprehensive reshuffle in the top echelons of the country's military and security apparatuses, most notably dismissing General Muhammad Hussein Tantawi, who had ruled the country since the ouster of Mubarak.

Mursi also issued a new constitutional declaration to supplant the one issued by the SCAF on the eve of the presidential election, with which he reclaimed the supreme authority to take decisions pertaining to military, security and legislative matters until the drafting of a new constitution. In doing so, Mursi essentially finalized the transfer of power from the military to the elected civil authorities. Prior to the reshuffle in the military and security forces, Mursi made several other important reshuffles, including the appointment of a new government and new editors for the official newspapers.[2]

Wanting to avoid incurring personal criticism and criticism against the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), but at the same time to demonstrate his authority to appoint key figures in the country, Mursi has largely avoided appointing figures blatantly associated with the MB. Most of his senior appointees in the military, police, government, and press are not MB members, but rather members of the mechanisms that operated under Mubarak. Mursi will likely exercise the same caution in the upcoming reshuffles in the country's institutions; however, down the line, he may appoint an increasing number of his associates.

Furthermore, Mursi has made noticeable efforts to avoid clashing with the SCAF and to preserve the dignity of those he has dismissed; some were awarded honors and some were assigned to other posts. The president stressed that he had no intention of offending anyone and was acting in the interests of the people and to complete the revolution.[3]

So far, Mursi's moves to reclaim authority do not seem to have aroused undue opposition from the SCAF. In an announcement on its official Facebook page, the SCAF even called the reshuffle in the military a natural step of handing the reins of leadership to a new generation, and stressed that the SCAF would continue to stand alongside the Egyptian people as it had from the onset of the revolution.[4]

Dismissal Of Top Security Officials

The dismissal of top military and police officials was effected in several stages. On August 8, 2012, Mursi fired General Intelligence Directorate head Murad Muwafi, replacing him with senior intelligence officer Muhammad Rafat Shehata, who was formerly responsible for Palestinian affairs and played a central role in the Gilad Shalit exchange.[5] Mursi also dismissed 'Abd Al-Wahhab Al-Mabrouk as governor of North Sinai, as well as military police chief Hamdi Badin. He also instructed the interior minister to enact changes within the Interior Ministry and the Central Security Forces.[6]

This preliminary series of dismissals, which did not arouse opposition, paved the way for the ouster of the top brass a few days later. On August 12, the president dismissed SCAF head Muhammad Hussein Tantawi, who also served as defense minister and commander-in-chief of the armed forces, as well as chief of staff Sami 'Anan. Both were appointed as presidential advisors and were decorated for their service.

Tantawi's replacement is 'Abd Al-Fattah Al-Sisi, the newest member of the SCAF, who was appointed military intelligence chief on the day before Mubarak's ouster.[7] Unlike other SCAF members, Al-Sisi has acknowledged that so-called "virginity checks" were performed on detainees during the revolution, and has expressed opposition to the military's use of violence against civilians. Al-Faraeen TV owner Tawfiq 'Okasha claimed that Al-Sisi is affiliated with the MB, a claim the SCAF denied.[8]

'Anan's replacement as the new chief of staff is Sidqi Sobhi, a former commander of the Egyptian Third Army. In the past, Sobhi has made statements about a "Zionist plot" to weaken the patriotism of youth in Sinai.[9]


Mursi says "so long" to Tantawi[10]

Among those dismissed by Mursi were also the heads of the Egyptian navy, air force, and Air Defense Command (EADC), who were reassigned to the administration of the Suez Canal and military industry. SCAF member Muhammad Sa'id Al-'Assar was appointed deputy defense minister.[11]

Mursi also appointed a vice president, in accordance with the demands of the people during the revolution. This is the first time Egypt has had a vice president, apart from 'Omar Suleiman, whom Mubarak appointed vice president a few days before his ouster. Mursi's choice for this post was Judge Mahmoud Mekki, formerly a senior police official and later vice president of the Appellate Court. Under the Mubarak regime, Mekki was brought before a disciplinary committee, along with reformist judge Hisham Al-Bastawisi, after they protested the Justice Ministry's coercion of judges, demanded legal oversight of parliamentary elections, and exposed forged ballots in the 2005 elections. Mekki's older brother, Ahmad Mekki, currently serves as justice minister.[12]

Mursi Reclaims Presidential Authority Assumed By SCAF

In addition to the abovementioned personnel changes, Mursi has revoked the SCAF's supplementary constitutional declaration, a temporary constitution issued by the SCAF several days prior to his inauguration. The declaration granted the SCAF sole authority in numerous military and state security matters formerly in the domain of the president and parliament.[13] Mursi has issued a new constitutional declaration in its place, which grants him the following authorities:[14]

  1. The president, rather than the head of the SCAF, is commander-in-chief of the armed forces, and is authorized to appoint the minister of defense. Previously, the SCAF had decreed that the role of defense minister would be discharged by the head of the SCAF itself.
  2. The president has the sole authority to declare war, and may do so without the SCAF's approval. Henceforth, the president is also authorized to recruit military forces to suppress unrest in the country, again without requiring the SCAF's approval.
  3. The president, not the SCAF, has the sole authority to appoint and dismiss SCAF members.
  4. The president, not the SCAF, is authorized to dissolve and reassemble the Constituent Assembly, charged with redrafting the constitution, should it fail in its mission. In addition, Mursi has rescinded the SCAF's authority to appeal the wording of the draft constitution and to bring disputed clauses before the High Constitutional Court for ruling.
  5. The president, not the SCAF, holds all legislative authority until the appointment of a new People's Assembly. He is also authorized to decide whether to reconvene the dissolved People's Assembly or to declare new elections.


Mursi takes Tantawi's cap[15]

Mursi's show of power is supported by many circles in Egypt, who see it as the fulfillment of the revolution and the restoration of power, which had been claimed by the military, to the Egyptian people. Shura Council member 'Issam Durbala, of the Al-Gama'a Al-Islamiyya movement, even compared it to the Prophet Muhammad's arrival in Mecca and his smashing of the idols around the Ka'ba.[16] However, there were those who criticized Mursi for concentrating excessive power in his hands, and expressed concern over the advent of a new dictatorship. A spokesman for the left-wing party Tagammu' even voiced fears that Mursi's measures are a prelude to the establishment of an Islamic Caliphate in Egypt.[17]

Prior to Mursi's decisions, many groups in the country had called for a demonstration of millions on August 24, 2012 against the MB's takeover of state institutions. However, following these decisions – which, as stated, were supported by many – these voices have subsided, and many groups have withdrawn their intention to participate in the protests.[18]

Endnotes:

[1] On the SCAF's assumption of presidential powers and on Mursi's previous attempts to reclaim them, see MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No.865, The Egyptian Revolution Is Only Starting: Will Power Be Transferred From The SCAF To The Elected President And Parliament?, July 30, 2012.

[2] On the reshuffle in the official press, see Inquiry & Analysis No. 875, Muslim Brotherhood Efforts To Take Over Egyptian Media, and August 22, 2012.

[3] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), August 13, 2012.

[4] Al-Ahram (Egypt), August 14, 2012.

[5] Al-Gumhouriyya (Egypt), August 8, 2012.

[6] Al-Ahram (Egypt), August 9, 2012; Al-Gumhouriyya (Egypt), August 8, 2012.

[7] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), August 13, 2012.

[8] Al-Watan (Egypt), August 12, 2012.

[9] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), August 13, 2012.

[10] Forum.islamstory.com, August 14, 2012.

[11] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), August 13, 2012. Al-Sisi enacted a series of additional reshuffles in the military, replacing, inter alia, the deputy chief of staff, the commanders of the Second and Third Armies, and the heads of the military commands, military police, border guard, operations command and military prosecution. Al-Gumhouriyya (Egypt), August 16, 2012.

[12] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), August 13, 2012.

[14] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), August 13, 2012.

[15] Al-Quds (Jerusalem), August 14, 2012.

[16] Gate.ahram.org.eg, August 13, 2012.

[17] Al-Ahram (Egypt), August 14, 2012.

[18] Al-Ahram (Egypt), August 17, 2012.