Egyptian parliament extends the military's power in provinces

Egyptian parliament extends the military's power in provinces
Egyptian parliament extends the military's power in provinces

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Egypt’s parliament voted on Monday to extend the military’s influence at a provincial level, further cementing the armed forces’ status as the chief source of power in the most populous Arab nation.

Already, constitutional amendments adopted last year enshrined the military as the guarantor of Egypt’s constitution and democracy, effectively giving it final say on policies and the political system in the country.

On Monday, lawmakers voted to amend a 1968 law governing the formation of “popular forces” to aid the military at times of war, with a new clause that empowers the defence minister to name a military adviser and appoint a “sufficient” number of aides to each of Egypt’s 27 provinces.

President Abdel Fatah El Sisi is a career army officer, continuing the near-complete hold by the military on the country's highest post since young officers seized power and toppled the monarchy in the early 1950s.

As defence minister, Mr El Sisi in 2013 led the military’s removal of an Islamist president, Mohammed Morsi of the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood, whose one year in power proved divisive and triggered mass protests. He won the presidency in a landslide election in 2014.

Last year, the constitution was amended to allow him to remain in power until 2030 if he chooses to seek re-election at the end of his current six-year term in 2024.

The military, by far Egypt’s most powerful institution, has assumed a commanding role in a wide range of fields since Mr El Sisi took office, significantly building on the economic activity it first assumed in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

With direct supervision from the president, the military now oversees a dizzying number of mega projects, including the construction of a new capital, a nationwide network of roads and some dozen new cities. The military has also made large strides in industry, retail, food production and imports.

On Monday, the 596-seat chamber, packed with Mr El Sisi’s supporters, added one more layer to the vast power already wielded by the military, with lawmakers celebrating the vote by lavishing praise on the army as the nation’s saviour, protector and the main force behind development.

Under the new powers, advisers appointed by Egypt’s defence minister will be charged with following up on services provided to residents and the progress of ongoing development projects. Reporting to the Defence Minister, they will work to “avoid any grave danger that may undermine the safety and the security of the state”, according to the text of the amendment.

They and their aides will also coordinate with provincial authorities to take the “necessary measures” to meet the nation’s development goals in the economic, social and cultural fields.

The amendment does not make clear how the advisers, giving their vast authority, would operate alongside provincial governors, many of whom are retired army officers.

The new mandate for the military in the provinces adds to the core task of the armed forces, whose men are fighting militants in the northern region of the Sinai Peninsula and protecting the porous desert border with Libya, home to militias backing rival administrations in the west and east of the vast energy-rich nation.

Mr El Sisi recently said Egypt was prepared to directly intervene in Libya militarily to safeguard its national security.

Updated: July 6, 2020 10:40 PM

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