Sunday’s papers: A confusing military council and a homeless cabinet

Amid the parliamentary elections hype, the ruling military council's statements about its role in the writing of the constitution continue to make headlines.

In the privately-owned Al-Shorouk, a front-page headline reads, “Opposition to the military council’s contradictory statements escalates.” Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) member Mamdouh Shahin told the paper that previous statements by fellow member Mokhtar al-Mulla were merely personal opinions. Last week, Mulla told foreign journalists that the parliament will not be assigned the writing of the constitution on its own. This raised politicians' tempers, particularly members of the Muslim Brotherhood, whose political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), is expected to reap the highest number of seats in parliament. The group didn’t accept Shahin’s statement, which was supposed to rectify Mulla’s, but rather described the whole wave of statements as “not regulated and somewhat irresponsible,” according to Ahmad Abou Baraka, a member of the FJP. Mulla had also said that the advisory council assembled by the SCAF will be assigned to work on writing the constitution, but Shahin denied this, saying that the council will not take away the responsibilities of the parliament.

Privately-owned Al-Tahrir quotes a source close to the SCAF as saying that its members’ most recent statements are intended to test reactions to the possibility of it leading the upcoming political process. Al-Tahrir also refers to a law that the SCAF is set to propose on the process of selecting the members of the constituent assembly that will draft the constitution. It is unclear however when this law will be issued or whether the elected parliament will have the power to reverse it.

State-run Al-Ahram runs a containment headline highlighting Shahin’s statement: “No role for the SCAF, the advisory council or the government in selecting the members of the constituent assembly.” The text of the story says “In clear and precise words, General Mamdouh Shahin resolved the ongoing debate about who will select the members of the constituent assembly that will draft the new constitution.”

In his daily column in Al-Shorouk, Wael Qandeel describes the contradictory statements by Shahin and Mulla as an attempt to produce different discourses for local and foreign consumption. Qandeel says that the product of such contradictions is vagueness and lack of transparency. His fear, he says, is that statements like Mulla's could encourage liberal forces to come closer to the SCAF as the angered Islamists’ camp distances itself from it. He says a more careful approach would be an initiative put together by all political players and presented to the SCAF, but that this can only happen if national unity between all parties and groups is established.

Prime Minister Kamal al-Ganzouri's new government remains a front page story for many papers, especially as he is still working from an alternative location because the street where the cabinet building is located remains occupied by protesters opposing his appointment. Al-Tahrir quotes the new Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim as saying that the sit-in will be dispersed soon.

The privately owned Youm7 runs a front page story titled “The return of the Ministry of Interior’s kudos.” The story quotes Ibrahim as saying that policemen have the right to return live ammunition to anyone who tries to raise a weapon against them. He is also cited as saying that he has ample rights to activate the emergency laws in order to deal with thugs and outlaws.

Party paper Al-Wafd runs a full page interview with newly appointed Minister of Information Ahmad Anis. In it, Anis said he was appointed by Ganzouri and not the military council, for which he has full respect.

He also said he would support a decision to abolish the Ministry of Information, as long as an alternative structure is created first. Anis also vowed to uphold freedom of expression in state television at all times and to contest any attempt to bar the appearance of certain figures because “state television is in the ownership of all people.” Al-Wafd asked Anis about allegations that he squandered public funds, specifically a European grant of 350 million euros meant to improve the performance of state television. Anis responded that the allegations are false.

An insightful editorial by Wael Abdel Fattah in Al-Tahrir compares Ganzouri's appointment as prime minister with that of his predecessor Essam Sharaf. Sharaf's appointment back in March was met with widespread support in Tahrir Square as it replaced the government of Ahmed Shafiq, the last serving prime minister under Hosni Mubarak. His appointment, Abdel Fattah notes, was meant to put an end to the usual strategy of clientelism in allocating senior state positions, as Sharaf was not a high profile figure in decision-making circles, particularly for the SCAF. “People are no longer looking for a hero, a leader or a father. People were looking for a value in Sharaf and not a hero,” he writes. “Now, why did the SCAF insist on appointing Ganzouri?” Abdel Fattah asks at the end of the column.

Egypt's papers:

Al-Ahram: Daily, state-run, largest distribution in Egypt

Al-Akhbar: Daily, state-run, second to Al-Ahram in institutional size

Al-Gomhurriya: Daily, state-run

Rose al-Youssef: Daily, state-run

Al-Dostour: Daily, privately owned

Al-Shorouk: Daily, privately owned

Al-Wafd: Daily, published by the liberal Wafd Party

Youm7: Daily, privately owned

Al-Tahrir: Daily, privately owned

Freedom and Justice: Daily, published by the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party

Sawt al-Umma: Weekly, privately owned

Al-Arabi: Weekly, published by the Nasserist Party

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