CAIRO — Former US president Jimmy Carter said on Friday that the generals ruling Egypt since a popular uprising ousted veteran president Hosni Mubarak were likely to retain some powers after the transition.
"When I met with military leaders, my impression was they want to have some special privilege in the government after the president is elected," Carter told reporters in Cairo.
His comments, which came after meetings with members of the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), political leaders and representatives of civil society groups, reflect the widespread belief that the military intends to maintain a political role in the country's future.
The SCAF has repeatedly pledged to cede full powers to civilian rule when a president is elected by the end of June.
It has pointed to the parliamentary elections as proof of its intention to step out of politics.
"It may be that the military leaders are sincere in their desire to turn over authority. They may wish to retain some special privileges," Carter said.
But "the leaders of all the political parties have told me that they intend to assume full civilian authority of government affairs when this process is concluded," Carter said, pointing to possible power struggles in the near future.
"My belief is that when the new government is formed, all powers should be in the hands of elected officials.
"The military should be completely subservient to the elected civilian officials," Carter said.
The former president was in Cairo to present the Carter Centre's findings on the conduct of the landmark parliamentary elections, which he said had been "acceptable."
Egypt's two main Islamist parties have claimed a crushing victory in the election for a new assembly, whose functions remain unclear.
The powerful Muslim Brotherhood, the country's largest and best organised political group, "will probably receive between 45 and 50 percent of votes," Carter said.
It will be followed in second place by the Al-Nur party representing the ultra-conservative Salafi brand of Islam and the liberal Wafd party in third place, he said.
"The will of the people has been adequately and accurately expressed in the results of the elections," Carter said.
In its preliminary findings on the election, the Carter Centre stressed that "the ultimate success of Egypt's transition will depend on the earliest possible handover of power to a civilian government that is accountable to the Egyptian people."
It said the SCAF's "lack of transparent behaviour has created a sense of uncertainty about their commitment to full civilian leadership."
The ruling military has also come under fire over its human rights record in recent months in the face of accusations that it has been resorting to Mubarak-era tactics to stifle dissent.
"The excessive use of force by the security apparatus, the continuation of the emergency law, the use of military tribunals for trying civilian suspects and the crackdown on civil society organisations has created an atmosphere of distrust," the Carter Centre said.
Once elections for an upper house are concluded in February, parliament will then choose a 100-member panel to draft a new constitution. A new president is then to be elected by June under the timetable set by the military rulers.
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