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In Egypt, the army wins. Again. (+video)

Egypt's presidential election Sunday was supposed to be the culmination of a transition to democracy. Instead, the military junta made it clear it has no interest in a truly democratic transition.

By Staff writer / June 19, 2012

Policemen close the gate of the Parliament building to prevent members of the recently scrapped Parliament from entering the building in Cairo June 19. The military reclaimed legislative power following a court ruling dissolving the Islamist-led parliament.

Asmaa Waguih/REUTERS

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In campaigns abroad, victories for Egypt's military are few and far between.

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Staff writer

Dan Murphy is a staff writer for the Monitor's international desk, focused on the Middle East. Murphy, who has reported from Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, and more than a dozen other countries, writes and edits Backchannels. The focus? War and international relations, leaning toward things Middle East.

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Egyptian supporters of Mohamed Morsy call for the Muslim Brotherhood candidate to be given full constitutional powers after he claimed victory in Egypt's presidential elections. Sarah Sheffer reports.

There was the loss of more than 20,000 men in the country's ill-fated intervention in Yemen in the early '60s, the humiliating defeat in the 1967 war with Israel, and the October 1973 offensive against Israel in the Sinai that ended in a draw.

But on the field of political battle at home, Egypt’s military reigned supreme, at least since the 1952 Free Officers coup that ended Egypt's monarchy and placed Gamel Abdel Nasser in the presidency. When he died, Free Officer Anwar Sadat succeeded him. And after Islamist gunmen murdered Mr. Sadat in 1981 in part over the peace deal he'd signed with Israel the previous year to secure the return of the Sinai Peninsula, Air Force Gen. Hosni Mubarak succeeded him.

Now, the votes are being counted from Egypt's first-ever free presidential election. Results are expected Thursday. Ahmed Shafiq is a retired officer and long-time confidante of Mr. Mubarak's, putting him very much in the mold of Egypt's leaders for the past 60 years. A victory for Mohamed Morsi from the Muslim Brotherhood, would be something else again: a real break from the past with a leader hostile to the military's position as a state within a state. 

IN PICTURES: Egypt elections

Is it an exciting race, with two extremely different candidates tussling to shape Egypt's future? No, at least, not anymore.

On the eve of polls opening last Saturday, the military junta that has ruled Egypt for the past 18 months took all the air out of the proceedings by decreeing itself Egypt's real power. This was only a formalization of a long-standing state of affairs, but it removed the pretense that Egypt is in the middle of a transition to full civilian rule, overseen by a benevolent military eager to get back to barracks. If Mr. Morsi wins, his hands will be completely tied. If Mr. Shafiq wins; welcome to Mubarak 2.0.

What happened to the ‘transition’?

What did they do? The Supreme Council for the Armed Forces (SCAF), the junta led by Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, decreed that the military should govern its own affairs and effectively gave itself a veto over new legislation and the writing of a new constitution.

Who gets to appoint Egypt's senior officers? Egypt's current senior officers.

Who has the power to declare war? Egypt's senior officers.

Who will the constituent assembly tasked with drafting a new Egyptian constitution answer to? Egypt's senior officers.

Nathan Brown, a leading scholar of Egyptian politics, writes "the supplementary constitutional declaration really does complete the coup in many obvious ways – basically returning martial law (in its more original sense rather than the 'state of emergency' that just expired), making the military unaccountable, and grabbing back oversight of the political system for the military just weeks before the scheduled end of military rule."

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