Egyptian Military Affirms Primacy Of Civilian Rule
The Egyptian military is promising a quick transition to new civilian leadership. Will they live up to their promise?
On the first day of the new Egypt, the military leadership promised a quick transition to civilian rule:
CAIRO — A new era dawned in Egypt on Saturday as this nation of 80 million — and hundreds of millions beyond its borders — began to absorb the fact that an 18-day mass movement of largely nonviolent protest brought down a nearly 30-year military dictatorship and renewed the country’s lease on life.
Within hours of the news that Hosni Mubarak had resigned as president, Egypt’s new army leadership quickly sought to project its control and assuage fears about military rule, at home and abroad. At the same time, opposition leaders took steps toward asserting their own role in the country’s future.
In an announcement broadcast on state television on Saturday, an army spokesman said that Egypt would continue to abide by all of its international and regional treaties — which include its peace treaty with Israel — and that the current civilian leadership would manage the country’s affairs until the formation of a new government, without giving a timetable. The spokesman said “a peaceful transition of power” would allow “an elected civilian state to rule the country for building a free democratic state.”
Some current members of the government had been barred from traveling abroad, The Associated Press reported, quoting an official at the Cairo airport.
The army spokesman urged citizens to cooperate with the police, after weeks of civil strife, and urged a force stained by accusations of abuse and torture to be mindful of the department’s new slogan: “The police in the service of the people.” Earlier, the defense minister, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, drove to Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the new Egypt. However, he did not leave his car.
As the impact of the revolution settled in, some members of the movement that toppled Mr. Mubarak vowed to continue their protests, saying that all their demands had not yet been met — including an end to the emergency law that allows detention without charges, and the release of political prisoners.
At a news conference, a group called the Coalition of the Youth of the Revolution said it had not yet talked with the military and would lay out a roadmap for the future. It also said protesters should leave Tahrir Square and return next Friday to honor those who had died in the protests.
The big test for a military coup is always how willing they are to cede back the control they’ve taken. In Egypt’s case, the extent to which the public has become engaged over the past three weeks seems to make it unlikely that they’d be able to turn Egypt into a military state. However, stranger things have happened and the Egyptian military now seems to have tied itself inexorably to the “stability” of the state. The next move is in their court.