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People Power Removes Morsi, But The Path Ahead Unclear

By Countercurrents.org

04 July, 2013

Egypt resumes its perilous journey towards democracy after people power, millions of citizens demonstrating and occupying public places around the country, accelerated the process of suspending an Islamist constitution and ousting of the Islamist president Morsi. Still the democracy journey is uncertain as the top judge of Egypt's Constitutional Court, Adly Mahmud Mansour, was sworn in as interim leader, at the behest of an all powerful army.

Mansour said fresh elections were "the only way" forward, but gave no indication of when they would be held. He said he would safeguard "the spirit of the revolution" which removed Mubarak from power in 2011, and would "put an end to the idea of worshipping the leader". Elections would be held based on "the genuine people's will, not a fraudulent one," he said. "This is the only way for a brighter future, a freer future, a more democratic one". Mansour was sworn in as chief justice of the Supreme Constitutional Court on July 4 morning, then, shortly after, he took the oath to become interim head of state, vowing to "preserve the system of the republic, and respect the constitution and law, and guard the people's interests". Mansour said: “I salute the revolutionary people of Egypt”.

One protester, Omar Sherif, told AFP: "It's a new historical moment. We got rid of Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood."

"We want to build Egypt with everyone and for everyone," said Mahmoud Badr, a 28-year-old journalist who first had the idea two months ago for a petition calling on Morsi to resign. Tamarod, Rebel, claimed of collecting 22 million signatures in the petition and spearheaded the movement to oust the Islamist autocratic ruler.

According to some estimates, as many as 17 million Egyptians took to the streets. The historically unprecedented turnout shook the country and caused pressure on the presidency and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Syrian president Bashar al-Assad said: "What is happening in Egypt is the fall of so-called political Islam. This is the fate of anyone in the world who tries to use religion for political or factional interests." The fall of Morsi raised questions about the future of political Islam, which had seemed triumphant.

Morsi was decisively ejected from power on July 3. Morsi along with his Muslim Brotherhood party’s top leaders have been detained although the Islamist leader promised to sacrifice his life to retain his presidency. The army flooded the streets of Cairo and announced a new interim government. Morsi, who had earlier refused to resign, was told at 7pm local time he was no longer president as Egypt’s military seized control of the state machine.

The military moved quickly after a TV address by Gen Abdul Fattah El-Sisi, commander of the Egyptian armed forces and Morsi’s defense minister. Military vehicles were seen fanning out across the capital.

As dusk fell, convoys of troops poured through the centre of the capital. Armored personnel carriers took up position on bridges. The army put combat troops and tanks on streets around a gathering of thousands of Morsi's supporters in Cairo. The army said it would keep order across the country.

Troops were cheered as they passed anti-Morsi protesters. In the north-west suburb around the presidential palace soldiers set up barriers to keep pro-Morsi demonstrators away from the Republican Guard buildings, where Morsi was rumored to be holding out or under house arrest.

The army's move to depose president Morsi followed four days of mass street demonstrations against Morsi and an ultimatum issued by the military which expired on July 3 afternoon.

In Tahrir Square, hundreds of thousands of anti-Morsi protesters celebrated with fireworks and honking car horns. In the Square, huge crowds in the hundreds of thousands partied and chanted: "The people and the army are one hand!"

In the TV address, Gen El-Sisi announced: The armed forces could not stay silent and blind to the call of the Egyptian masses. Morsi had "failed to meet the demands of the Egyptian people".

As the streets of Cairo erupted in jubilation, Gen El-Sisi, in his TV address, accused Morsi of rejecting calls for national dialogue. Sisi was flanked by his uniformed high command and also by a senior Muslim cleric, the pope of Egypt's Coptic Church and political leaders ranging from liberals to a bearded Islamist representative from the ultra-Islamic Nour Party. Also present were youth leaders who were given special mention by Sisi.

The general spoke of a new roadmap for the future, and said that the chief justice of the Supreme Constitutional Court, Adli Mansour, would be given the task of "running the country's affairs during the transitional period until the election of a new president".

Sisi announced a technocratic government will rule until new presidential and parliamentary elections are held. However, no time frame was set for the task. According to the promises, the constitution will be reviewed by a panel representative of all sections of society, and media freedoms, under threat during Morsi's rule, would be protected.

After Gen El-Sisi's address, Pope Tawadros II - the head of the Coptic Church and leading opposition figure Mohammed ElBaradei made short televised speeches about the new roadmap for Egypt's future which they had agreed with the army.

ElBaradei said the roadmap aimed for national reconciliation and represented a fresh start to the January 2011 revolution. He said the program agreed with the generals would ensure the continuation of the revolution.

Opposition leader and former Arab League chief Amr Moussa told AFP news agency that consultations for a government and reconciliation "will start from now".

Hours before the end of the 48-hour deadline, the general commanders of the armed forces met, headed by Gen El-Sisi. They called for meetings with representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), Tamarod (Rebel) campaign, ultra-conservative Salafist Nour Party, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, and Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II, as well as Mohamed ElBaradei, who was delegated by the 30 June Front and the National Salvation Front (NSF).

Earlier, Morsi held talks with Gen Sisi during the day, but pulled out at lunchtime after it became clear he was not going to be able to cling to office.

Morsi and his advisers traded verbal blows all day with Gen Sisi, who made the decision on Monday to step in and force a change in government. He had given Morsi two days to propose a compromise solution.

The massive anti-Morsi protests showed that the Brotherhood had not only alienated liberals and secularists by seeking to entrench Islamist rule, notably in the constitution. But it also angered millions of Egyptians with economic mismanagement. Morsi was helped by gifts and loans from Qatar.

The army had already grown increasingly alarmed about Morsi dragging Egypt into the sectarian conflict in Syria. The turnout on the streets gave Sisi his justification for handing the president a 48-hour deadline to share power or lose it.

The National Salvation Front (NSF) issued a statement on July 4 on the dramatic developments in Egypt congratulating the Egyptian people on their insistence to hold firm to the goals of the January 25 Revolution. The statement also insisted that what has happened in Egypt is not a coup but rather a necessary intervention.

"We would like to confirm that what Egypt is witnessing now is not a military coup by any standards. It was a necessary decision that the Armed Forces’ leadership took to protect democracy, maintain the country’s unity and integrity, restore stability and get back on track towards achieving the goals of the January 25 Revolution. We have full confidence in the commitment the Armed Forces made yesterday that their role would remain to be a national one, and not political, aimed at restoring stability, security and fulfilling the economic and social rights of the Egyptian people." said the NSF statement.

US Awkward

The situation led the US to a position that seemed awkward. The US declined on July 3 to criticize Egypt's military.

Minutes before Egypt's army commander announced that Morsi had been deposed and the constitution suspended, the US State Department criticized Morsi, but gave no public signal it was opposed to the army's action.

Asked whether the Egyptian army had the legitimacy to remove Morsi from power, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said, "We're not taking sides in this."

The muted US response - at least thus far - to the dramatic events in Cairo suggested that Washington may be willing to accept the military's move as a way of ending a political crisis that has paralyzed Egypt, a long-time US ally.

Earlier, Psaki had made clear that US officials were disappointed in Morsi's speech on July 2-night.

The military move also presents Obama with a dilemma over continuing US aid to Egypt. Underlying the importance for Washington of keeping ties to Egypt's military, the US secretary of state John Kerry in May quietly approved $1.3 billion in military assistance, even though the country did not meet democracy standards set by the US Congress for it to receive the aid.

US president Barack Obama called on the Egyptian military to return full authority back to a democratically elected government as soon as possible through an inclusive and transparent process, and to avoid any arbitrary arrests of Morsi and his supporters.

A senator involved in aid decisions said the US would cut off its financial support if the intervention was deemed a military coup.
Much may depend on a strict definition of "coup."

Washington's senior general, Martin Dempsey, said that if the move by Sisi, a graduate of the US Army War College, was seen as a coup it would affect relations: "There will be consequences if it is badly handled," he told CNN. "There's law that binds us on how we deal with these kinds of situations."





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