Not quite second in command: Reem Leila
reports on the anomalous position of Mohamed Mursi's vice president
Forty days after appointing Counsellor Mahmoud Mekki as vice president, President Mohamed Mursi specified his mandate.
Mekki, who became Egypt's first ever civilian vice president on 12 August, is authorised to stand-in for the president in specific circumstances. According to presidential spokesman Yasser Ali, Mekki will assume presidential prerogatives should Mursi be under anaesthesia, on vacation or so ill that he is unable to perform his duties.
Meanwhile, the vice president has been charged with facilitating dialogue between political forces as well as preparing legislation to guarantee judicial independence and the effective separation of powers.
The vice president will also be able to review parliamentary bills at the draft stage and will help Mursi manage his team of four presidential assistants and 17 presidential advisers.
Mekki will not have the authority to dissolve the People's Assembly or Shura Council or to dismiss ministers.
During the presidential election Mursi pledged to appoint four vice presidents -- a Christian, a woman, a revolutionary figure and a technocrat. His promise, though, has fallen by the wayside.
Nabil Abdel-Fattah, a political expert at Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies, believes Mursi's willingness to renege on so many of his electoral promises is symptomatic of the Muslim Brotherhood's determination to monopolise power.
"Mursi now holds the levers to executive and legislative authority after pushing aside the generals. He never expected to be able to grab legislative authority and now he has it he does not want to share it," says Abdel-Fattah.
"It is one more sign that the Brotherhood is determined to grab power and keep it in their own hands."
Tellingly, Mursi did not delegate presidential prerogatives to Mekki during his four-day trip to the US.
"What is the use of a vice president if he is not going to be used?" asks Alia Al-Mahdi, professor of political science at Cairo University. "All presidential institution are staffed by amateurs. They do not understand anything. They keep on making promises, then they break them, then they claim they hadn't made them in the first place."
It is, says Al-Mahdi, behaviour guaranteed to erode any semblance of credibility. On Mekki's appointment, she questions why it was made in the first place if Mursi is unwilling to delegate any real authority.
Political analyst Mustafa Al-Sayed, professor of political science at American University in Cairo (AUC), believes "Mursi is unwilling to delegate his powers to anyone even for few seconds."
Mekki's mandate is severely restricted, says Al-Sayed, and Mursi's failure to delegate his powers while in the US begs questions of what would occur should Mursi be unable, for whatever reason, to carry out his duties."