CAIRO — Egypt’s ruling military has warned against any interference in its murky economic empire amid a burgeoning power struggle with Islamists who control parliament, state media reported on Wednesday.
The warning comes as the military prepares to hand power to a civilian leader when presidential elections end in June, and as the dominant Islamist Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) pressures the generals to sack the government.
Major General Mahmud Nasr, a member of the ruling council, warned that the military “will not allow any interference from anyone in the armed forces’ economic projects,” the official MENA news agency reported.
In the unusually detailed defence of the military’s economic ventures, which include factories and hotels, Nasr said the businesses’ annual revenues were 1.2 billion Egyptian pounds ($198 million).
Nasr, who made the comments at a panel discussion on Tuesday, said the military’s enterprises were meant to allow the army to become self sufficient and complied with financial and tax regulations.
He also denied that the military, which dissidents suspect of angling to stay in power even after the planned transfer of power to civilian rule, was “a state within a state.”
Nasr said the businesses also compensate for the small percentage of the budget allotted to the military, adding the military receives only 4.2 percent rather than its “deserved” 15 percent of the budget.
The military, which amended its penal code last year to allow only military courts to investigate charges of corruption against officers, has said it wants the final say over any army related matters in a future constitution.
Its detente with the powerful Muslim Brotherhood, whose FJP dominates a parliament-appointed panel that will draft the new constitution, unravelled into a war of statements this month.
The Brotherhood wants the military to sack the cabinet and replace it with an Islamist-led one, before a new constitution is in place. The Islamists also want to allow the prime minister further powers in a new constitution.
The military was idolised after the uprising that overthrew president Hosni Mubarak in February 2011 for not siding with the dictator, but it has come under growing attack by dissidents over human rights violations.
Formerly untouchable figures such as Mubarak and his security chiefs now face trial on charges similar to the accusations levelled by dissidents against the generals.