Morsi Prepares Plan to Impose Martial Law
CAIRO — Struggling to quell street protests and political violence, President Mohamed Morsi is moving to impose a version of martial law by calling on the armed forces to keep order and authorizing soldiers to arrest civilians, Egyptian state media announced Saturday.
|Decent reporting here by NYT, likely because the story doesn't hurt Champ...|
If Mr. Morsi goes through with the plan, it would represent a historic role reversal. For decades, Egypt’s military-backed authoritarian presidents had used martial law to hold on to power and to punish Islamists like Mr. Morsi, who spent months in jail under a similar decree.
|This is assuming the military, all of it, will obey...|
A turn back to the military would also come just four months after Mr. Morsi managed to pry political power out of the hands of the country’s powerful generals, who led a transitional government after the ouster of the longtime strongman Hosni Mubarak.
The flagship state newspaper Al Ahram reported that Mr. Morsi “will soon issue a decision for the participation of the armed forces in the duties of maintaining security and protection of vital state institutions.” The military would maintain its expanded role until the completion of a referendum on a draft constitution next Saturday and the election of a new Parliament expected two months after that.
|Just means a different group of generals are in charge today compared to a year ago. Morsi likely thought he had installed new generals who are loyal to him. He's about to find out if he was right...|
Imposing martial law would represent the steepest escalation yet in the political battle between Egypt’s new Islamist leaders and their secular opponents over the Islamist-backed draft constitution — a standoff that has already threatened to derail Egypt’s promised transition to a constitutional democracy.
Calling in the army could overcome the danger of protests or violence that might disrupt the planned referendum and the parliamentary election. But resorting to the military to secure the vote could undermine Mr. Morsi’s hopes that a strong vote for the constitution would be seen as a sign of national consensus that could help end the political crisis over the Islamist-backed charter.
Mr. Morsi has not yet formally issued the order reported in Al Ahram, raising the possibility that the newspaper announcement was intended as a
|Not to mention the humorous hypocrisy...|leak warning to his opponents. Although the plan would not fully suspend the civil law, it would nonetheless have the effect of suspending legal rights by empowering soldiers under the control of the defense minister to try civilians in military courts.
There was no sign of military tanks in the streets on Saturday evening, but the military appeared for now to back Mr. Morsi. Soon after the news of the plans, a military spokesman read a statement over state television that echoed the reports of Mr. Morsi’s planned decree.
|Who needs a civil law when you have military courts?|
The military “realizes its national responsibility for maintaining the supreme interests of the nation and securing and protecting the vital targets, public institutions, and the interests of the innocent citizens,” the spokesman said, emphasizing the “sorrow and concern” over recent developments and warning of “divisions that threaten the state of Egypt.”
“Dialogue is the best and sole way to reach consensus that achieves the interests of the nation and the citizens,” the spokesman said. “Anything other than that puts us in a dark tunnel with drastic consequences, which is something that we will not allow.”
Moataz Abdel-Fattah, a former adviser to Egypt’s transitional prime minister who is close to Defense Minister Abdul Fattah el-Sisi, suggested that the generals might have prompted Mr. Morsi to announce the possibility of martial law as a warning to all the political factions to end the crisis.
“The military is saying, ‘Do not let things get so bad that we have to intervene,’ ” Mr. Abdel-Fattah said. “In the short term it is good for President Morsi, but in the long run they are also saying, ‘We belong to the people, and not Mr. Morsi or his opponents.’ ”
The military’s return to the streets at Mr. Morsi’s request would be a turn of events that was almost unimaginable when he took office in June.
The top generals had pushed for months to maintain a role in Egyptian politics and to limit the president’s powers — in part, their supporters argued, as a safeguard against an Islamist takeover.
After taking office Mr. Morsi spent months courting the generals, sometimes earning the derision of liberal activists for his public flattery of their role. In an August decree, he relied on the backing of some top officers to remove the handful of generals who had insisted on maintaining a political role. And then last month, despite the protests of the same activists, the new Islamist-backed draft constitution turned out to include protections of the military’s autonomy and privileges within the Egyptian government, suggesting an understanding between the two sides that may now come into effect.
Under the president’s planned martial law order, the defense minister would determine the scope of the military’s role, Al Ahram reported. Military officers acting as police officers would be authorized “to use force to the extent necessary to perform their duty,” the newspaper said.
The move would cap an extraordinary breakdown in Egyptian civic life that in the last two weeks has destroyed almost any remaining trust between the rival Islamist and secular factions, beginning with Mr. Morsi’s decree on Nov. 22 granting himself powers above any judicial review until the ratification of a new constitution.
At the time, Mr. Morsi said he needed such unchecked power to protect against the threat that Mubarak-appointed judges might dissolve the constitutional assembly.
But his claim to such unlimited power for even a limited period struck those suspicious of the Islamists and fearful of a possible return to autocracy. It recalled broken promises from the Muslim Brotherhood that it would not dominate the parliamentary election or seek the presidency. And his decree set off an immediate backlash.
Hundreds of thousands of protesters accusing Mr. Morsi and his Islamist allies of monopolizing power have poured into the streets. Demonstrators have also attacked more than two dozen Brotherhood offices around the country, including its headquarters. And judges declared a national strike.
In response, Mr. Morsi’s Islamist allies in the assembly rushed out a draft constitution over the boycotts and objections of the secular minority and the Coptic Christian Church. Then, worried that the Interior Ministry might fail to protect the presidential palace from sometimes-violent demonstrations outside, Mr. Morsi turned to the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups to defend it, resulting in a night of street fighting that killed at least six and wounded hundreds.
The draft charter, ultimately rushed out almost exclusively with Islamist support, stops short of the liberals’ worst fears about the imposition of religious rule. But it leaves loopholes and ambiguities that liberals fear Islamists could later use to empower religious groups or restrict individual freedoms.
Mr. Morsi’s political allies, in turn, accuse their secular opponents of seeking to scrap democracy because the Islamists won.
On Saturday, Mohamed Badie, the Muslim Brotherhood’s spiritual guide, held a news conference to argue that the group had been the victim of its opponents’ attacks and not an aggressor, at times almost pleading with its opponents not to let their fear of the Islamists keep them away from negotiating a resolution to the crisis.
“I am telling everyone, ‘Do not hate the Muslim Brotherhood so much that you forget Egypt’s interest,’ ” he said. “You can be angry at us and hate us as much as you want.” But he added: “Protect Egypt. Its unity cannot take what is happening right now.”
Posted by: Steve White