Egypt: An Uncertain Transition
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By B Raman
Issue Net Edition | Date : 12 Feb , 2011

Some have termed the departure of President Hosni Mubarak from office on February 11,2011, as a resignation. Some others have called it waiving the office or powers of the President. The Egyptian Constitution provides for both contingencies. When a President resigns, the Constitution requires that he should address his letter of resignation to the President (Speaker) of the Parliament. When he stops exercising the powers of the President, he addresses his letter to the Vice-President. Article 82 provides for this interesting contingency of the President leaving office without formally resigning. It says: “If on account of any temporary obstacle the President of the Republic is unable to carry out his functions, he shall delegate his powers to a vice-president.”

Mubarak, while leaving office much to the jubilation of the protesters, did not inform the President of the Parliament and submit a formal letter of resignation as required under the Constitution. Nor did he ask the Vice-President Omar Suleiman  to take over. Instead, he asked the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to take over. It is a coup without seeming to be a coup.

What next? The present Constitution has become untenable since the post-Mubarak transitional arrangements are not in accordance with the Constitution.

One can go on analyzing the circumstances of Mubarak’s departure. Whatever be the circumstances, Mubarak is gone from office for ever. It is time to discuss what next. Egypt is now in a state of transition under the leadership of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which consists of the following:

  • Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, who  has been  the  Minister of Defense and commander-in-chief of the Egyptian Armed Forces since  1991. He has been a Field Marshal since  1989. After the protests broke out on January 25, Mubarak promoted him as Deputy Prime Minister and asked him to continue to hold the defence portfolio. He visited the Tahrir Square on February 4 and met the troops deployed there as well as the protesters. He is the Chairman of the Supreme Council.
  • Air Marshal Reda Mahmoud Hafez Mohamed, the chief of the Air Force since March 20,2008. 
  • Lieutenant General Sami Hafez  Anan, Chief of Staff of the Army. 
  • Lt. Gen. Abd El Aziz Seif-Eldeen, Commander of Air Defense.
  • Vice Admiral Mohab Mamish, chief of navy.

Is Lt.Gen. Omar Suleiman, the Vice-President, who made the televised announcement regarding Mubarak leaving office after handing over his powers, a member of the Supreme Council? The position is not clear. Al Jazeera says he is. Others do not say so. However, since he is only a Lt-Gen and since the Supreme Council is headed by a Field Marshal, it stands to reason that Suleiman may have to work under the orders of the Supreme Council and not vice versa.

Also read: Egypt: The Modified Script

What next? The present Constitution has become untenable since the post-Mubarak transitional arrangements are not in accordance with the Constitution. This gives rise to the possibility that the Supreme Council may suspend the Constitution and dissolve the Parliament. Mohamed El Baradei has said that Egypt will now have a provisional Constitution.

What now of Mubarak? Will he be allowed to lead a quiet life in Sharam-el- Sheikh, where he has reportedly  taken up residence or will he face further humilitation. The youth elements want him to be held accountable for his alleged misdeeds and enquiries ordered against him.

What will be the duration of the transitional arrangements? Till September when the election of a new President is due or for a longer period? The political elements, who participated in the protest movement, are already saying that it may not be possible for the Supreme Council to restore political and  economic normalcy before September and, hence, according to them, it should be for a longer period. El Baradei has been quoted by the BBC as stating as follows: “ “What I have been proposing is a transitional period of one year. We will have a provisional constitution. We’ll have a transitional government, hopefully a presidential council, including a person from the army and a couple of civilians. The main idea is that the army and the Egyptian people will work together in a systematic way for a year to reach the point where we can hold a genuine free and fair election, a parliamentary election and a presidential election. I think the people of Egypt, who have been suppressed for at least 30 years, are ready to wait for a year as they see things are going in the right direction.”

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

B Raman

Former, Director, Institute for Topical Studies, Chennai & Additional Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat. He is the author of The Kaoboys of R&AW, A Terrorist State as a Frontline Ally,  INTELLIGENCE, PAST, PRESENT & FUTUREMumbai 26/11: A Day of Infamy and Terrorism: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.

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