Egypt’s military rulers dismissed complaints from protesters on Friday that it was entrenching its rule and blamed the Muslim Brotherhood’s presidential candidate for stirring up emotions that drew thousands onto Tahrir Square.
In a brusque four-minute statement read on state television as Egyptians returned from weekly prayers — and as the revolutionary bastion of Tahrir was chanting for democracy — the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) made clear it had no plan to heed their calls to cancel a decree extending its powers or reverse its dissolution of the new, Islamist-led parliament.
“The issuance of the supplementary constitutional decree was necessitated by the needs of administering the affairs of the state during this critical period in the history of our nation,” the off-screen announcer said.
In what were menacing tones for the army’s old adversary the Muslim Brotherhood, SCAF said people were free to protest — but only if they did not disrupt daily life. And it called the premature announcement of results in last weekend’s presidential election “unjustifiable” and a prime cause of the tension.
Both comments target the Islamists more than other groups and the Brotherhood was quick to hit back. It denounced the military’s actions themselves as “unconstitutional”.
The SCAF statement read: “Anticipating the announcement of the results before they are announced officially is unjustifiable, and is one of the main causes of division and confusion prevailing the political arena.”
It also said the army had no power to repeal the dissolution of parliament, saying that was down to judges who ruled that some of January’s election rules were unconstitutional.
The Brotherhood is mounting protest vigils on town squares to demand the reversal of the decree and the dissolution. It also fears a delay in announcing the result of the presidential election indicates an attempt to cheat — though opponents say it is the Islamists who are not playing fair.