Egypt’s Defense Minister and virtual strongman Gen. Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi had three options after the new constitutional referendum was out of the way. Should he run as president or pick a tame candidate, when to call an election and should it take place before or after the parliamentary poll: In fact, he rolled them all in a single package. Monday, Jan. 27, the general promoted himself to the rank of field marshal and resigned as defense minister preparatory to announcing his run for the presidency in a vote (still unscheduled) to take place before parliamentary elections.
He opted for the presidency even through the new constitution approved two weeks ago by a 98 percent popular majority substantially reduced the powers of that post, by removing the army from the jurisdiction of the executive branch of presidency and government.
The new charter transformed the military into an independent entity, its policies, decisions and operations free of the oversight of or intervention by the president or prime minister. The generals’ powers were thus enhanced to exceed those enjoyed by the authoritarian President Hosni Mubarak, or indeed his successors in post-revolution Egypt, while elected political institutions’ authority was attenuated.
Full democracy in Egypt has therefore been put on hold.
Gen. El-Sisi had to choose between running as president, and then flouting the new constitution by choosing his own tame defense minister and generals – or retaining defense and engineering the election of a docile president.