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Will Egypt's Tahrir protests today dislodge military control?

It was one of Egypt's biggest demonstrations since Mubarak was toppled, a show of force against military efforts to maintain control. Amr Moussa recently discussed some of the key issues in an interview.

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"I do favor a presidential system, I don’t think the time is right for a parliamentary system now … when the Egyptian landscape is not mature enough to produce a balanced political course of action. Therefore we need a strong president," he said. He added that, perhaps, Egypt's constitution could be amended after the next presidency to allow parliament a greater role.

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Who will write the Constitution

But he also seemed to back a set of constitutional principles endorsed by the military that would take full control of drafting the new constitution from the next Parliament's hands. Asked if the Constitution, and the question of whether a Parliamentary system should be adopted, should be in the hands of the next Parliament, he answered: "No, it is for the committee on the Constitution to decide."

Asked to clarify whether that committee would be appointed by the parliament, he answered: "No they are not. They are going to appoint some of the members and the rest will be representatives of the syndicates, the unions, civil society and so forth." How exactly this extra-parliamentary body will be set up remains unclear, at least to me. And that lack of clarity, and accountability, makes it all the more likely that the military will exert influence on the process.

Secular establishment, meet the Brothers.

Islamist-secular tensions

The Brotherhood, other Islamist groups like the archconservative salafiyah (whose ranks carried posters today demanding that the Quran become Egypt's Constitution), and some secular democracy activists (but not all) are incensed with the military's attempt to set preconditions on Egypt's future.

If the country is going to be a democracy, and if the military's near-total immunity from civilian supervision is going to end, then Parliament – not generals and like-minded political friends (some secular opposition groups have been backing SCAF out of fear the Islamists are going to do well in elections) – will have to make the rules.

Issandr El Amrani put it this way after visiting Tahrir today:

To be honest, I largely agree with the Islamist position on the constitutional principles: they are unnecessary and pretty ridiculous, since the whole point of the coming elections is to elect a parliament that will, via the constituent assembly, write Egypt's next constitution. You can call anything you want binding but the legitimacy of an elected parliament trumps any agreement made behind closed doors. The whole debate has been a divisive waste of time, and it would have been much better for liberals who wanted to get some guarantee that basic rights would be preserved in the next constitution to deal with the Islamists directly rather than through SCAF.

 Follow Dan Murphy on Twitter.


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