SCAF to Set “Parameters” for Constitutional Committee

Anti-Tantawi graffiti

Although the SCAF was recently forced to back down from a proposal to exercise oversight over the process of writing Egypt’s next constitution, a new statement by General Mokhtar al-Mullah confirms that the SCAF is still intent on manipulating the content of the new charter to protect the interests of the military establishment. At a press conference on December 8, al-Mullah said that parliament’s authority to choose the 100-member assembly that will draft the constitution will be constrained by military-approved "parameters" agreed beforehand. Under the interim constitution ratified in March, the People’s Assembly was given exclusive control over the composition of the constituent assembly, but now the SCAF is asserting its right to intervene in the selection of the 100-member body. 

As justification for this intervention, al-Mullah pointed to preliminary election results, which suggest that Islamists could occupy as many as 70 percent of the People’s Assembly seats. While al-Mullah acknowledged that "we are seeing free and fair elections," he nonetheless believes that voting under "unstable conditions" will distort the composition of the next parliament.  And an unrepresentative parliament, he argues, cannot wield exclusive control over the constitutional process.

This is just the latest in a series of maneuvers by the SCAF attempting to codify a privileged status for the military in the new system. The SCAF is taking a serious political risk by inserting itself into the constitutional process again, so soon after political forces and protesters in Tahrir Square overwhelmingly repudiated the draft constitutional principles issued by Deputy Prime Minister Ali al-Selmi in late November. The principles – interpreted as a blatant attempt to hardwire the military’s political and economic privileges into Egypt’s legal framework – provoked the massive and violent anti-military protest on November 18 that nearly delayed elections.

When Prime Minister Essam Sharaf’s embattled cabinet was forced to resign in late November, the status of the controversial set of draft constitutional it drafted — which would guarantee the military’s political and economic privileges in the new system — was left in limbo. Critics of the document hoped that the cabinet shakeup had left the proposal dead in the water, and the Muslim Brotherhood issued a stern warning to the new government that anyone intent on resuscitating the principles "would die with them."

But the public outcry doesn’t seem to have deterred the SCAF, and al-Mullah’s statement makes clear that the military is still determined to leave its mark on Egypt’s constitutional design. 

Al-Mullah outlined a new roadmap for drafting the constitution, starting with the formation of a 35-member military-appointed civilian advisory council that will function as an intermediary between the SCAF, parliament and the cabinet. Although the SCAF has offered assurances that the advisory council will represent all political forces, the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party has already withdrawn its representative, citing misgivings about the advisory council’s anticipated intervention in the constitutional process.

According to the plan outlined by al-Mullah, these four bodies – three of which were chosen by the SCAF – will need to reach consensus on the composition of the 100-member assembly: "There will be an agreement beforehand on the form of this constituent assembly between the cabinet, the advisory committee for the military council, and the parliament,” al-Mullah said. The last time the SCAF publicly aired a proposal to manipulate the constitution, protesters brought down the cabinet.  After today’s announcement, will they set their sights on the SCAF?


Mara Revkin is the assistant director of the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East and editor of EgyptSource. She can be reached at

Photo Credit: Gigi Ibrahim



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