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Egypt: The constitutionalization of the military coup overshadows the first free presidential election. End of transition?

Publisher International Federation for Human Rights
Publication Date 18 June 2012
Cite as International Federation for Human Rights, Egypt: The constitutionalization of the military coup overshadows the first free presidential election. End of transition?, 18 June 2012, available at: [accessed 17 December 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Last Update 18 June 2012

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) deplores that the first free presidential election in Egypt is being overshadowed by the Constitutional Annex released by the Supreme Council of the armed forces (SCAF) on June 17th, 2012. That Annex is providing a constitutional base to the military coup and aims at making the results of the poll simply anecdotal. Unofficial vote tallies show Muslim Brotherhood's candidate Mohamed Morsi leading in that election.

The Annex amending the March 2011 Constitutional Declaration was announced by the SCAF last night. It outlines the powers of the new President, who will take office in a context of great political uncertainty.

According to these amendments, the powers of the coming president will be extremely limited whilst the military will expand its own role, notably over the writing of the country's future constitution. "This constitutional amendment constitutes a coup by the Army that can be compared to the 1992 situation in Algeria when the Army interrupted the electoral process in response to the rise of FIS (Front Islamique du Salut)" declared Souhayr Belhassen, FIDH President.

The Amendments to the Constitution considerably reduce the president's powers and extend significantly the power of SCAF on the institutions and the political life.

Indeed Article 53 of the amended Constitutional Declaration gives the SCAF the upper hand in running the armed forces. The only power of the new president will be to decide to go to war, and to call on the armed forces to contribute to rule of law and security operations in the country alongside the police, with the approval of the SCAF.

The amendment to Article 53 retroactively provides constitutional grounds for the recent expansion of the military's power to arrest civilians after the Ministrer of Justice issued a decree, on June 13th, 2012, allowing military police and military intelligence to arrest civilians for non-military crimes set forth in the penal code. The decree, severely criticized by human rights organizations as being illegal and infringing upon Egyptian fundamental rights and freedoms, constitutes a flagrant circumvention of the official termination of the state of emergency and institutionalizes military rule.

In those circumstances, "handing over the power will not prevent the military to remain a major player in management of the political life," warned the Egyptian FIDH member and partner organizations in a joint statement.

Furthermore, by amending arictle 56 of the Constitutional Declaration, the Army reasserted control over the legislative process, and over the country's budget, until the election of a new People's Assembly.

On June 14th, 2012, the High Constitution Court (HCC) declared Egypt's Parliamentary Elections Law – prepared by the SCAF to regulate the legislative elections – unconstitutional. The HCC ruling resulted in the immediate dismantling of the People's Assembly which was dominated by the Freedom and Justice Party.

On the same day, the Court ruled that the Disenfranchisement Law, which was introduced by the parliament in April 2012 to prevent the remnants of the former regime from holding governmental decision, was unconstitutional thus allowing Ahmed Shafiq to run the election.

Before it was dissolved, the parliament appointed a 100-member assembly to draft a new constitution; according to the SCAF, the constituent assembly will be allowed to continue its work. However, under amended Article 60 of the Constitutional declaration, if it runs into "obstacles", the SCAF will appoint another Constituent Assembly to write the constitution. Even though the decree (Constitutional Annex) issued yesterday promises new legislative elections, this will not happen until a new constitution has been drafted.

"We cannot comment on the constitutional court's ruling but there is something disturbing and worrying about the timing that could make it look like a well-planned scenario by the military since the ousting of Hosni Mubarak in February 2011. The international community and the institutional partners of Egypt must seriously question their support to leaders that just confiscated any hope for democratic transition by institutionalizing a military dictatorship," concluded Souhayr Belhassen.

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