Egypt’s Army Deposes Morsi, Installs Transitional Government

A soldier in Cairo's Tahrir Square, Egypt, February 6, 2011
A soldier in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, Egypt, February 6, 2011 (Wikimedia Commons/Sherif9282)

Egypt’s defense chief Abdul Fatah Khalil al-Sisi announced on Wednesday night that the army had installed the nation’s chief justice Adli Mansour as interim head of state until elections can be held, deposing the elected Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.

Sitting behind Sisi were Coptic Pope Pope Tawadros II and Grand Imam Ahmed el-Tayeb of Al-Azhar, Egypt’s leading Christian and Muslim clerics, as well as liberal opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei, the former International Atomic Energy Agency chief. Sisi said a roadmap had been agreed by a range of political groups and promised the formation of a national reconciliation committee that would include representatives of youth movements. The second largest Islamist party Al-Nour signaled its support for the process.

ElBaradei said the coup would “rectify the course of the revolution” that started more than two years ago with the removal of longtime president Hosni Mubarak.

The army chief of staff, who also serves as defense minister, said the Constitution, which was written by Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhod and approved in a referendum last year, had been suspended. Many secular Egyptians opposed the law which they argued didn’t adequately protect the rights of minorities, including Christians and women.

Army troops and personnel were deployed in Egypt’s major cities on Wednesday after a deadline set by the military leadership for political reforms had passed without concessions from Morsi’s government. The president’s national security advisor accused the army of staging a coup while the vice president of his Islamist party said that “remnants of the former regime” were “trying to abort our glorious revolution and reinstate themselves.”

The army had issued Morsi an ultimatum on Monday, giving him 48 hours to meet the “people’s demands.” It was made a day after mass demonstrations swept Alexandria, Cairo and other cities and four non-Islamist cabinet ministers had resigned.

While the army insisted that it would “not be a party to the circle of politics or rule,” it vowed to present a “roadmap” of its own if Morsi failed to comply.

Despite the military’s call on all parties to “shoulder the responsibilities for the historical moment which the nation is going through,” opposition groups on Wednesday refused to meet with representatives of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood who, in turn, refused to speak to the military. Senior members of the armed forces did meet with opposition groups earlier in the day, they said.

In a televised speech Tuesday night, Morsi had rejected the army’s demands. “If the price of preserving the legitimacy is my blood, then I am ready to pay that willingly for the sake of this homeland and its stability,” he said.

A 51.7 percent majority of Egyptians elected Morsi in presidential elections last year but dissatisfaction with his Muslim Brotherhood’s economic mismanagement and attempts at desecularization brought millions of Egyptians to the streets again last week, two years after a similar uprising prompted the army to force Mubarak out of office.

The transitional government will face the very economic and fiscal challenges Morsi failed to cope with.

Ashraf Khalil writes for Foreign Affairs magazine that Qatar was one of the main backers of the Muslim Brotherhood government. “If Morsi is indeed ousted, that supply of vital Qatari largesse might just dry up,” he suggests, “leaving the transitional government scrambling for emergency relief.”

Egypt got $5 billion in aid from Libya and Qatar as recently as April, the same it owed oil companies. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which abhor the Muslim Brotherhood and were among the first countries to send congratulations to the interim government, might help plug the hole. But while Egypt is running a $32 billion annualized trade deficit, support from other Arab nations can give it no more than a few months of breathing room.

The United States suspended $1 billion in aid after violent protests took place outside their embassy in Cairo last year.

Egypt’s Morsi Doesn’t Bend to Protesters on Referendum

Police fired teargas on Tuesday night at thousands of Egyptians who were protesting outside the presidential palace in Cairo against Mohamed Morsi’s drive to hold a referendum on a new constitution later this month. Press agency Reuters reports that the unrest forced Morsi to leave the palace.

The Islamist president, who was elected in June, ignited a storm of protests with his bid to prevent the Arab nation’s judiciary from derailing the Muslim Brotherhood’s rise to power. He issued a presidential decree last month in which he shielded both himself and the upper chamber of parliament from legal challenges until new elections can be held. Read more “Egypt’s Morsi Doesn’t Bend to Protesters on Referendum”

Islamist President’s Power Grab Alarms Egypt’s Liberals

Liberals and seculars in Egypt were alarmed on Thursday when President Mohamed Morsi assumed sweeping powers for himself, shielding his government from legal challenges until a new parliament is elected.

Presented as a move to “protect the revolution,” the Islamist president also decreed that an assembly that is tasked with rewriting the Constitution as well as the upper house of parliament are shielded from prosecution. Both bodies are dominated by members of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood party.

The decree also gave the constitutional panel two more months to complete its work, meaning that parliamentary elections could be pushed back to February of next year. The panel has faced a raft of legal challenges while many secular members stepped down, complaining that their voices were not being heard by the Islamist majority. Read more “Islamist President’s Power Grab Alarms Egypt’s Liberals”

Egypt’s Morsi Moving Closer to Iran? Not So Fast

View of Tehran, Iran, March 26, 2009
View of Tehran, Iran, March 26, 2009 (Siavash Sam Anvari)

Last month’s hosting of the Nonaligned Movement Summit in Tehran may have been booked as a diplomatic victory by the Iranians even if few of the member states bothered to send their government leaders and even fewer are particularly supportive of Iran’s uranium enrichment program which Western nations suspect was set up to attain a nuclear weapons capacity. One government leader notably did show up: Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi, officially only to hand over the presidency of the movement to the Islamic republic. Read more “Egypt’s Morsi Moving Closer to Iran? Not So Fast”

Morsi’s Iran Visit Shows “Independence” from Washington

A leading member of Egypt’s ruling Muslim Brotherhood says that President Mohamed Morsi’s visit to Iran this week demonstrates the Arab nation’s “independence” from the United States.

“Morsi’s presence in Tehran conveys this message to the United States and Israel, that the era of Egypt’s political obedience to Washington and Tel Aviv has ended,” Sabri Amer told Iran’s Fars News Agency.

Morsi will be in the Iranian capital to attend the sixteenth summit of the Nonaligned Movement, a Cold War era organization that includes African, Middle Eastern and South Asian nations as well as several countries in Latin America. Read more “Morsi’s Iran Visit Shows “Independence” from Washington”

Egypt’s Morsi Dismisses Defense Minister, Army Chief

In a dramatic turn of events in Egypt’s political turmoil, President Mohamed Morsi on Sunday dismissed the country’s two top military officers and negated an army decree that prevented him from taking on legislative powers.

Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, who ruled Egypt on an interim basis after President Hosni Mubarak resigned in February of last year and who was kept on as defense minister by Morsi just this month, as well as General Sami Hafez Enan, chief of staff of the Egyptian armed forces who maintained close ties with the Americans while in office, were both forced into retirement by Egypt’s Islamist president.

A spokesman for Morsi described the move as a “sovereign” decision by the head of state, aimed at “pumping new blood” into the army which the ruling Muslim Brotherhood suspects is trying to cling to power. Read more “Egypt’s Morsi Dismisses Defense Minister, Army Chief”

Egyptian Election Committee Names Morsi Winner

The chairman of Egypt’s Constitutional Court on Sunday named the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi the winner of last weekend’s presidential election.

Morsi had already declared himself the victor ahead of the release of the official result to the chagrin of his challenger Ahmed Shafik who insisted that the vote had been close. Less than 52 percent voted for Morsi.

The former air force commander Shafik served as President Hosni Mubarak’s prime minister in the dying days of his regime. Mubarak resigned in February of last year in the face of mass demonstrations. Morsi and Shafik emerged as the frontrunners from May’s first round of voting which were the first free presidential elections in Egypt’s history. Read more “Egyptian Election Committee Names Morsi Winner”

In Egypt, “The Revolution Has Ended”

A protester waves an Egyptian flag in Cairo, February 4
A protester waves an Egyptian flag in Cairo, February 4 (Alisdare Hickson)

The Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate Mohamed Morsi appears certain to head into the second round of Egypt’s presidential election while former aviation minister Ahmed Shafik could claim second place.

Egyptians headed to the polls on Wednesday and Thursday for the first free presidential election in more than half a century. Because no candidate emerged with an absolute majority, there will be a runoff next month. Read more “In Egypt, “The Revolution Has Ended””