Moments ago, and after days of conspicuous silence, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which has ruled Egypt since it ousted former president Hosni Mubarak last February, has issued its first public statement since the outbreak last week of a new nationwide wave of protests over continued political and economic grievances.
Reading the statement on state television, SCAF spokesperson General Mohsen El-Fangari stressed in an emphatic tone that the council does not intend to abdicate its role in administering the country’s affairs in this transitional period.
The statement repeated some of the steps announced many times in the last few months that the ruling military council would hand political power to a civilian administration.
For example, El-Fangari said the council is still committed to a transitional plan of holding parliamentary elections, followed by the drafting of a new constitution and presidential elections at a later point in time.
However, perhaps as a gesture of goodwill towards “Constitution First” supporters in Egypt, the council announced for the first time that it intends to issue a new Constitutional Declaration in which the basic principles of the constitution, which is to be drawn by a constituent assembly picked by parliament, are set out. Also, the declaration is to lay down the criteria by which the forthcoming parliament will pick the 100-member constituent assembly, as stipulated in the first Constitutional Declaration, approved by a national referendum last month.
The ruling military council also stressed its support for Prime Minister Essam Sharaf who has been facing serious challenges in recent days from revolutionaries accusing his cabinet of doing little to meet the revolution’s goals.
While the statement affirmed that the military council is still committed to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, El-Fangari also issued a stern warning to anyone who would disrupt public order and services.
In a rebuke to those who have criticised the council’s use of military trials to prosecute civilians, El-Fangari said that the council intends to continue referring all those who violate the law to what he called “all appropriate judicial institutions.”
Finally, in a clear reference to workers and others who are demonstrating and organising sit-ins in many cities across Egypt over long-standing wage and benefit issues, El-Fangari called on all Egyptians to put the country’s overall welfare above what he described as “sectional interests.”
The military council intends to hold a press conference at 2:30pm Cairo local time (12:30 GMT).