Egypt’s constitution, legislature in dire straits

The promise of free elections in Egypt, under the umbrella of a constitution and parliamentary rule, seems dashed after the country’s military acted to undercut the nation’s legislature.

A poster, with a nod to Obama's "Hope" campaign. Illustration by Nick Bygon

In a series of rapid developments, a panel of judges appointed by former leader Hosni Mubarak dissolved parliament as Mubarak’s last prime minister, Ahmed Shafik, is running for president.

There will still be a presidential election this weekend between Shafik and Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, but the military will act as the parliament after the runoff election concludes.

And there will be no constitution to constrain the president.

Reaction to the news in the region has been negative, with many viewing the ruling as a military coup to keep the Muslim Brotherhood from making gains.

“Electing a president without either a constitution or a parliament is like electing an ‘emperor’ with more power than the deposed dictator. A travesty,” Mohamed ElBaradei, a former presidential candidate, said in a comment online reported by the New York Times.

ElBaradei told The Guardian that the Muslim Brotherhood was also at fault for trying to grab “the whole cake” after Mubarak’s downfall and giving the military an excuse to end the nation’s experiment with democracy.

“We are going to elect a president in the next couple of days without a constitution and without a parliament. He will be a new emperor, holding both legislative and executive authority and with the right to enact laws and even amend the constitution as he sees fit,” ElBaradei said.

ElBaradei expects Shafik, the former prime minister and Air Force general, to win the election and assume dictatorial powers in Egypt.

Egypt’s military council is expected to appoint a panel to draft a new constitution. The Muslim Brotherhood was dominating the process of naming a constitutional panel when parliament was dissolved on Thursday.