Egypt’s Supreme Council of Armed Forces: Beyond Tahrir Square

Egypt’s Supreme Council of Armed Forces: Beyond Tahrir Square (July 25, 2011)               by Jennifer Bubke

The following is an abbreviated account of a discussion with Major General Elassar (Assistant to Egyptian Defense Minister, Supreme Council of the Armed Forces) during an event organized at  the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) in Washington DC on 7/25/2011. Major General Said Elassar discussed the role and goals of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) as the transition to democracy continues in Egypt.  

First, the SCAF was not prepared to run the country for a long period of time.  Thus, its role in post-Mubarak Egypt has been a difficult challenge, and patience is needed from both the SCAF and the people of Egypt.  While decisions appear to be slow to the public, the SCAF has had to draw from social, security, and economic policy experts as the SCAF lacks expertise in these fields.  However, the SCAF is not just listening to experts and has been meeting with various youth groups and opposition movements.  Further, the SCAF is being confronted with various agendas and demands.  Because some contradict each other, not all demands can be met, and the SCAF has to decide how to best meet as many demands as possible. The SCAF will continue to try to satisfy the wants of the people of Egypt, and meet their demands as much as possible.

In regards to the upcoming elections and the constitution, the SCAF has responded to the request that the age to be an eligible member of parliament be reduced from 30 years of age to 25.  Also, the SCAF has agreed that the committee in charge of overseeing the elections will be composed of judges only.  However, the SCAF has chosen to refuse the international monitoring of the elections and it is the right of the SCAF to make such a decision.  The SCAF is committed to having the elections be 100% fair, and this is a commitment made to the people of Egypt.

Having a free and fair election means that if the Muslim Brotherhood is committed to democracy and following the rule of law then they have the right to participate politically.  In fact, the Muslim Brotherhood’s party was approved by the SCAF because the party is not seeking to enforce religion on the country, and has become more moderate day by day.  The party has also been interacting in a positive fashion within larger political coalitions.

Further, the SCAF understands that the elected parliament will draft the constitution, and that the president will be elected based on the new constitution.  Therefore, the SCAF agrees that it will have no say and has no right to a say in the drafting of the new constitution.  This means that the SCAF is ready and willing to accept whatever role the constitution assigns the armed forces.

For the funding of civil society, there are laws in Egypt on how to provide money to local NGOs but these laws are being violated by foreigners.  As a result, the SCAF is worried about foreign funds that are coming from the EU, the U.S., and some Arab states.  The SCAF welcomes support from the international community – but not interference – and to have money enter the country legally.  The SCAF is providing money to registered NGOs according to the law.

In conclusion, the SCAF is not an extension of the old regime and is not seeking political authority.  Therefore, the SCAF wants to expedite the election process as much as possible.

Jennifer Bubke is a graduate student at American University , in the International Politics Program at the School of International Service (Class of 2012). Her area of focus is international organizations with a related field in international development.

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