Via The Washington Post--the scariest I've heard so far.
With voting set to begin Nov. 28 and lasting through March, the coming parliamentary elections could be the first test of whether the military’s powers will be rolled back or will remain untouchable.
It remains unclear how much power an elected parliament will wield. For now, the military has made clear that it intends to retain the right to appoint the prime minister and cabinet and to control the budget, even after the new parliament is in place.
But those proposals have been condemned across Egypt’s activist political spectrum, most strongly by Islamist leaders. If adopted, they would allow the military to veto any portion of the constitution that it opposes and to disband a constitutional assembly chosen by parliament and appoint a new one if the assembly does not meet a six-month deadline. The proposals would also allow the military to exclude its budget from civilian oversight.
“The military has put its cards on the table and shown that it intends to maintain a lot of control, but to do so even more openly than it did in the past,” said Marina Ottaway, director of the Middle East program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “There was never anything in writing that the military had total control of their own budget. Now they have put it in writing. It goes further than anything that happened before. They also made it very clear that they are going to control the process of writing the constitution.”
Broad public support
The Egyptian military is a notoriously change-averse institution, as U.S. diplomats noted in a 2008 cable from the embassy in Cairo that was made public by the group WikiLeaks. Tantawi, the military chief, was called “aged and change-resistant.” The same dispatch said he was opposed to economic and political reforms that would contribute to decentralization of power.
A desire to maintain a strong central government, presumably propped up by the military, is partly what drives the generals’ grasp for power in these uncertain times, analysts say. Advocates of that approach say that without generals at the helm, Egypt would plunge into lawlessness and economic collapse, a scenario that the military council appears to truly fear.
Even now, the army and its top commanders enjoy broad public support, regularly polling at the top in surveys on whom Egyptians trust most since Mubarak’s ouster. That has left critics in a delicate situation — trying to raise concern about military rule when most Egyptians are highly supportive of Egypt’s army and the generals seem reluctant to leave.
Though they are visibly uncomfortable in the spotlight, disentangling them from power could take years.
In addition to their quest for stability, the generals also seem determined to safeguard the economic perks they have amassed through decades of authoritarian rule, analysts say. The military’s expansive holdings have never been subject to domestic or international scrutiny, and the generals are loath to put them before the public now, according to the analysts. They want to lay the groundwork to protect their financial interests and become the guardians of Egypt’s political system before they pass the reins, said Robert Springborg, an expert on the Egyptian military at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif.
“In a fully functioning democracy, they would be subjected to government control,” he said. “They do not want the development of oversight capacity that would impinge upon them. They don’t want democratization.’’