In retrospect, no one should be surprised at recent moves by the Egyptian armed forces to consolidate their power, in what some have called a soft coup d’état. Although the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which has ruled the country since Hosni Mubarak’s ouster, maintains that it will hand over power to a civilian government as planned by the end of June, it is hard to see how this might happen.

With both sides claiming victory in Sunday’s presidential election, the armed forces are poised to retain the real power no matter which of the two candidates is declared the winner when the results are announced on Thursday. Egypt’s Supreme Court, which is packed with Mubarak appointees, last week dissolved the elected parliament in which Islamists held the majority of seats, declaring it unconstitutional. This past Sunday, after the polls had closed, the armed forces issued a constitutional declaration giving it the right to veto many presidential decisions and to maintain control over its own budget. The decree also said the military would soon name a group of Egyptians to draft a new constitution, which will be subject to a public referendum within three months. Following ratification of the new constitution, an election will be held to replace the Islamist-dominated Parliament. [click to continue…]