Egyptian military: We control constitution

Dec. 8, 2011 at 3:30 AM
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CAIRO, Dec. 8 (UPI) -- The military, not the new Parliament, will determine Egypt's new constitution because Islamists are taking too much power, a top military council member said.

In any case, the constitution will be modeled on the one-party-rule principles or precedents of the Mubarak-regime constitution, Major Gen. Mukhtar al-Mulla said.

"Given the unstable situation, Parliament is not representing all the Egyptian people," Mulla told eight U.S. journalists and a British reporter Wednesday in an unusual question-and-answer session without any Egyptian news organizations present.

The parliamentary representatives' primary role was to have been to appoint a special body tasked with drawing up Egypt's first constitution since the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak Feb. 11.

The political party of the once-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood has emerged as the biggest winner in early parliamentary election returns, with about 40 percent of the vote.

Islamists, which Mulla referred to only as "specific groups," are welcome in the lower chamber, known as the Peoples' Assembly, but "they won't have the ability to impose anything that the people don't want," and this includes power over the constitution, Mulla said.

The Islamists, especially the faction of ultraconservative Salafis that has taken a quarter of the early voting, could not represent the people, Mulla said.

"This is not out of mistrust of the Parliament," he said. "What we are seeing is free and fair elections ... but they certainly don't represent all sectors of society," pointing to farmers, engineers and doctors as among those not represented.

He said Islamists threaten Egypt's economy, security and international relations.

"This is the first stage in our democracy," said Mulla, who insisted military-budget details must remain shielded from democratic oversight. "In the future, Parliament may have the ability to do whatever it likes."

The military council, led by de facto head of state Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, will not intervene directly in the constitutional process, Mulla told reporters. It will instead appoint a civilian advisory council of party delegates to represent the military council to the Parliament, he said.

The civilian council will include artists, intellectuals and media personalities under military council control.

"They should represent all the Egyptian people and no one can really oppose this demand," he said.

A one-month timetable the military council has set for drafting the constitution before a presidential race is brief but sufficient because the old Egyptian constitution will only need tweaking, Mulla said.

"A lot of legislators are saying that we have a very good constitution and a very unique one except for only Chapter 5, about the presidential elections, so we will only amend this chapter," he said.

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