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Egyptian General: Military might hand over power sooner than planned

May 23rd, 2012
05:36 PM ET

By Samuel Burke

(CNN) - Even as Egyptians head to the polls for a second day Thursday, there are still very real questions about whether the military – which has been running the country since the revolution – will easily give up power.  The military has massive wealth, and deep institutional control.  Tuesday, retired General Sameh Seif Elyazal, a key Egyptian military figure, told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour that the military is ready to handover authority to a civilian power and maybe even sooner than planned, but with caveats.

“There is no hesitation. They will do it on June 30,” Elyazal said.  The general, who is a close adviser to Egypt's de facto ruler, General Hussein Tantawi, said that the military might even let go of the reins sooner if the new president is elected in the first round. “They will give up [power] immediately after that and they will not even wait until June 30,” he said. “I have no doubt whatsoever that they will hand over power to the new president at the right time.”

When Amanpour pressed him on whether the military would attach strings to its handover of power, he said, “I don’t think they want be involved directly or indirectly with political life,” but he added that the military does want certain conditions to be met.

At the top of the list, Elyazal said the military wouldn’t want the new Egyptian president to declare war on another nation without consulting military leaders first. He also told Amanpour that they would want the budget of the army to remain somewhat confidential – discussed in subcommittee, but not publicly in parliament.

But that wasn’t his only stipulation, “I think we are not ready -yet- for a civilian minister of defense.  What they want is to have a general – someone from the military – to be the next Minister of Defense.”  But he said that might change as Egypt’s democracy grows, “maybe later on – ten years from now.”

When Amanpour asked the general who the military would prefer to win the election he said “No one – believe me.” He added, “They don’t care really about a secular candidate coming to power or an Islamist – they will deal with anybody.”

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