Why Egypt’s new president will have limited powers


Announcing Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Mursi the winner of Egypt’s presidential elections was seen by the Islamist group as one of its greatest post-revolution victories, yet the president will assume office with powers much more limited than those granted to occupiers of the same position before the revolution.

Many of the powers given to the president, in accordance to the 1971 constitution, which was suspended since the toppling of Mubarak’s regime, have been withdrawn.

According to the supplementary constitutional declaration, issued by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), the president will be deprived of four main powers.

The president will no longer be the head of SCAF and will have no right to replace, appoint, or dismiss any of its members. He will not have the power to give orders to the army to interfere in the case of a security vacuum. Also, the president will have no say in the formation of the Constituent Assembly, which will be in charge of drafting the country’s new constitution.

According to article 53 repeated of the supplementary constitutional declaration, SCAF is the only body to deal with military affairs and not the president. This includes the appointment and replacement of military staff.

Head of SCAF, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, will also have all the powers of the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, the position previously occupied by the president, as well as the powers of the minister of defense until the new constitution is drafted.

The supplementary constitutional declaration also stipulates that the president cannot declare war without the prior approval of SCAF.

Although the declaration gives the president the right to ask for the army’s help in maintaining law and order or protecting the state’s strategic facilities, he can only do so after obtaining SCAF’s permission.

The declaration also gives SCAF legislative powers until a new parliament is elected.

Meanwhile, Article 60 of the declaration states that if the formation of the Constituent Assembly is faced with any obstacles, SCAF retains the right of appointing members of this assembly and assigning them the mission of drafting a constitution within three months. The draft will then be put to a popular referendum and a month later preparations for the new parliamentary elections are to start.

Article 60 also states that if the president, SCAF, the prime minister, the Supreme Judicial Council, or one fifth of the members of the Constituent Assembly sees that any of the constitution’s articles is in contradiction with the goals of the revolution or the welfare of the country, then any one of them has the right to demand a revision of these articles.

If the Constituent Assembly insists on keeping the controversial articles, the entire matter is to be taken to the Supreme Constitutional Court whose verdict will be binding for all parties.

On the other hand, the 1971 constitution gave the president the right to make immediate decisions in case of perceiving a threat to the country’s national security or to the ability of state institutions to carry out their roles as stated in the constitution.

The president also had the right to appoint civil and military officials as well as political representatives and to dismiss them in accordance with the relevant legal procedures.

In the 1971 constitution, the president was the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces and had the right to declare war after the approval of the People’s Assembly, Egypt’s lower house of parliament. He also had the right to declare the state of emergency according to legal procedures and to sign treaties then present them to the People’s Assembly.

The former constitution also gave the president the power to appoint one or more vice president, to determine their duties, and to dismiss them from their position. The president also had the right to appoint and dismiss the prime minister as well as deputy prime ministers, ministers, and deputy ministers after consulting with the cabinet.

(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)