The Egyptian military’s efforts to tighten their grip on power in the face of upcoming elections is not so much counter-revolution, but an inevitable result of a reliance on the Tahrir movement to ensure the success of their revolution. With reports of up to 13 dead in Cairo over the weekend, alongside the controversial role the army played in the sectarian clashes last month, the army’s reputation as protectors of the people is eroding.

The situation at present reflects a military that is, one may say inevitably, seeking to maintain control. This is a fundamentally new position for the role of the military in Egyptian political life. Since the February overthrow of Mubarak, the military, guided by caretaker president and head of the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, has moved from a largely passive institution and recipient of regime largesse to controlling the state apparatus itself.

With the first substantial elections only one week away, the military moved last week to institutionalise this new role through amending the provisions of the constitution, approved at referendum in March, to include reference to the military as protectors of constitutional integrity as well as removing any civilian oversight of the military’s structures of governance and budget.

In this regard, it may be argued that Tantawi is acting to formalise the military coup that removed Mubarak and undermine the claims of those in Tahrir Square to ownership of change in Egypt. In other words, the coup and the revolution are now fighting for control, and it is difficult to see how those in Tahrir Square could challenge the military’s dominance.

Admittedly, this is somewhat of a simplification of matters. There is still a high degree of popular support for the military, and a view of its prospective role as protectors of the state and the constitution as a guarantee of stability resonate in these volatile political and economic times for Egypt.

Indeed, many Egyptians see the violence in Syria and Yemen, two states it has traditionally very close relations with, as something to avoid. The military have drawn on this, with the unrest in Tahrir portrayed as a small price to pay to avoid more widespread social chaos.

As such, this is likely see the military force the protestors to accept some degree of military autonomy from civilian control as well as military “oversight” of political reform. This is a blow to those in Tahrir Square and their supporters both in Egypt and globally, and has the potential to severely undermine the legitimacy of the elections should they be held as scheduled next Monday.

In processes of political transition, events are highly dependent. A loss of faith in this first vote could tarnish the rest of the reform process, seeing Egyptians fall into the previous pattern of living outside the political system, rather than seeking to be active participants in their own political future. Should this happen, then Egypt’s Arab Spring will be remembered more and more for an opportunity lost.

*Dr Benjamin MacQueen is senior lecturer in the School of Political and Social Inquiry and Deputy Director of the Global Terrorism Research Centre, Monash University