As Egyptians vote in their country’s presidential election, the ruling military council is busy figuring a way to publicly relinquish power while retaining a tight hold on its interests from behind the scenes. Egyptians are very much looking forward to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces handing over the keys of power to a civilian government. But we can all be sure that the military will engineer a way to keep its budget and affairs under its own control. The same goes for the military’s business holdings, which are vast.The FT reports:
People familiar with the military’s thinking say the generals are seeking to maintain oversight over Egypt’s “direction”.“They want a special status – in other words they won’t accept civilian rule over the ministry of defence or the ministry of military productions and they want to be the guardians of certain red lines,” says one official. These red lines include “matters of war and peace” but also preventing any political current (which means Islamist parties) from “changing the face of the country”.Politicians who have had discussions with the generals say that despite repeated denials, the military council is looking to shield the army from prosecution for past corruption and protect the military’s economic interests from parliamentary scrutiny. The army runs a vast business empire that politicians and diplomats say accounts for anywhere between 10 and 25 per cent of the economy.
The key reality is that the Egyptian military wants a civilian authority that can manage day to day government and take the blame for all that goes wrong (and a lot is almost certain to go wrong), while leaving the military and its large economic interests completely secure and accepting the limits it intends to place on how far and how fast change can go.This may not be ideal, but it might be the best that Egypt can hope for, for now.