“Consensus has to be reached between political forces on the issue of drafting the new constitution before holding presidential elections. It is not a sound resolution to elect a president without a constitution to define his powers,” announced Mohamed El-Kholy, spokesman of the military council’s advisory council on Tuesday.
The advisory council, who was appointed by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) in December to “assist” the government in decision-making during the transfer of power, contacted a number of political parties in order to resolve the issue. The council spoke to the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), the Salafist Al-Nour Party as well as the liberal Wafd and the Free Egyptians parties.
In December, a group of political activists, journalists, authors and political figures including revolutionary novelist Alaa Al-Aswany and George Ishaq, founder of the Kefaya movement, adopted an initiative to advocate bringing presidential elections forward. The timeframe chosen was within 60 days of the revolution’s first anniversary on 25 January, 2012, in order to speed up the handover of power to a democratically elected civilian authority.
Supporters of the initiative include April 6 Movement, the former prime minister Essam Sharaf and newly elected parliament members Amr Hamzawy and Mustafa El-Naggar.
There have also been calls across social media for mass rallies on 25 January to demand early presidential elections to end the military’s hold of the country, which has been one of the main demands of the ongoing revolution.
Earlier this week, presidential hopeful and Islamist thinker Mohamed Selim El-Awa told BBC Arabic news channel that a number of military council members held a meeting on 22 November with representatives of certain liberal and Islamist parties, during which it was “agreed” that presidential elections be held after, and not before, the drafting of the new constitution.
This would imply that a deal was brokered between the SCAF and the parties who attended, about the political calendar, ensuring they all agreed with the military council’s suggested schedule.
The FJP, which won a majority of seats in the latest parliamentary elections, initially approved this timing in a December press statement published on their website www.ikhwanweb.com. They rejected the calls for elections in January on the grounds that it conflicted with the constitutional declaration.
However, on Monday, the party posted a new statement online changing their stance. They implied they would like to see the writing of the constitution happen parallel to the presidential elections, which would start in March after the first joint session between the lower and upper houses. The decision to choose a different timeframe to that of the SCAF could be seen as an attempt to distance themselves from the ruling military council.
According to El-Awa, the meeting, which was led by the deputy head of the military council and the army's Chief of Staff Sami Anan, was attended by the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), the Salafist Al-Nour Party, the moderate Islamist Wasat Party, the liberal Wafd Party and the Democratic Front Party.