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Egypt – A victory for revolution, not for democracy

If the Brotherhood consents to Morsi’s ouster, it could yet regain the presidency; if not, Egypt is heading into a cycle of violence with regional implications

Lt. Gen. Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, center, flanked by military and civilian leaders in including reform leader Mohamed ElBaradei, far left, Tamarod leader Mahmoud Badr, second left and Pope Tawadros II, second from right, as he addresses the nation on Egyptian State Television Wednesday, July 3 (photo credit: AP/Egyptian State Television)

Lt. Gen. Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, center, flanked by military and civilian leaders in including reform leader Mohamed ElBaradei, far left, Tamarod leader Mahmoud Badr, second left and Pope Tawadros II, second from right, as he addresses the nation on Egyptian State Television Wednesday, July 3 (photo credit: AP/Egyptian State Television)

The statement issued Wednesday evening by Egypt’s Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi confirmed the expectations of the last few days: the army, backed by the masses, had carried out a coup.

Yes, tens of millions had taken to the streets in recent days, illustrating just how badly the majority of the population wanted to see president Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood out of office. But Morsi was installed just a year ago, having been democratically elected. And he was overthrown by the military.

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Several major figures in Egypt’s political system sat next to al-Sisi when he delivered his statement — among them former International Atomic Energy Agency head (and would-be president) Mohamed ElBaradei, Coptic Pope Tawadros II, and Al-Azhar University President Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb.

But to the left of al-Sisi, slightly behind him, sat a young, bespectacled, long-haired man to whom the defense minister owes the takeover. This man, Mahmoud al-Aziz, was the representative of Tamarod (the revolution) a group that began operating only two months ago. Tamarod succeeded where opposition politicians had long failed and led protests unprecedented in size that eventually resulted in Morsi’s ouster.

For al-Sisi, it was the speech of a lifetime. He started off by explaining that the military’s High Command had tried several times, to no avail, to reason with the presidency to accept the “people’s” terms. And therefore, he explained, it had been decided to present the “road map” to get Egypt out of its crisis.

For Hamas, the news out of Cairo Wednesday night was especially grim. They’re losing their most substantial ally

The Egyptian general, who has yet to turn 60 and was appointed by Morsi to the job just 11 months ago, has been transformed into Egypt’s strongman. He is the one who appointed Supreme Constitutional Court chairman Adli Mansour as interim president. And he is also the one who will dictate the spirit of the new constitution and set the date for new elections. Mansour is expected to be sworn in and take on presidential authorities, alongside al-Sisi and the army, on Thursday.

Meanwhile, the army has isolated Morsi and banned senior Muslim Brotherhood officials from leaving the country. Wednesday evening also saw the closure of some of the television networks associated with the Muslim Brotherhood. It appears that al-Sisi, like a good military man, does not dally but, rather, charges with full force in order to eliminate the enemy.

Yet the enemy, as far as al-Sisi and much of Egypt are concerned, is impossible to eliminate. At best it can be temporarily reduced in scale. In order to ensure the defense minister’s move is a success, he needs the cooperation of the Muslim Brotherhood, or at least some of the Islamists. For now the ball is in “al-Ahwan’s” (the Brotherhood’s) court. If it consents to Morsi’s ouster, it may even win the next presidential elections with a more effective candidate. If it refuses and orders its followers to battle the new regime, Egypt may spiral into a bloody cycle of violence.

Morsi, minutes before he was removed by the army to a secure place, was able to smuggle out his reaction speech, in which he made clear that he refused to accept the military’s takeover. “I will not accept this attempt to take us backwards,” he said. Morsi called on the army to resume its traditional role of protecting the people. “I am the elected president of Egypt,” the Islamist politician said. “It is now demanded of the people to defend this legitimacy and … for legitimacy to be constitutional,” he added, saying that he was willing to call for new elections, but only for the parliament.

It was too little, too late. Five people were quickly reported killed Wednesday evening in clashes between supporters and opponents of the Muslim Brotherhood, and they are not likely to be the last casualties.

Morsi’s ouster and the success of the secular protest in its clash with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt may presage the fall from power of other Islamist movements in the region, like Tunisia and Gaza.

In Tunisia, a protest against the Islamist constitution has already gotten underway.

But for Hamas, the news out of Cairo Wednesday night was especially grim. The Palestinian organization is losing its most substantial ally, one that gave it vital political support. The Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas’s parent organization and in many ways its “Godfather,” lost its power to a military establishment that is hostile to the Palestinian group’s goals.

Hamas, which has clashed with Syria and Iran over the course of the last year, now finds itself nearly isolated in the Arab sphere. Perhaps the new reality in which it finds itself will lead the weakened Hamas to conclude its reunification with Fatah.

Time will tell. As of Wednesday night, all eyes were focused on Egypt, where the short-lived presidency of Mohammed Morsi underlined, in case anyone was still in doubt, that the holding of one round of free elections does not constitute a transition to democracy.

 

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Morsi out thrown The Justice minister leading the transition

 

Egypt’s military deposed the country’s first democratically elected president Wednesday night, installing the head of the country’s highest court as an interim leader, the country’s top general announced.

Gen. Abdul Fattah Al-Sisi said the military was fulfilling its “historic responsibility” to protect the country by ousting Mohamed Morsy, the Western-educated Islamist leader elected a year ago. Morsy failed to meet demands to share power with opponents who thronged the streets of Cairo, and those crowds erupted as the announcement was made.

Ahead of the statement, troops moved into key positions around the capital and surrounded a demonstration by Morsy’s supporters in a Cairo suburb. Citing an unnamed presidential source, the state-run newspaper Al-Ahram reported that “the General Command of the Armed Forces told President Morsy around 7 p.m. (1 p.m. ET) that he is no longer a president for the republic.”

At the final hour, Morsy offered to form an interim coalition government “that would manage the upcoming parliamentary electoral process, and the formation of an independent committee for constitutional amendments to submit to the upcoming parliament,” he said in a posting on his Facebook page. He noted that hundreds of thousands of supporters and protesters had packed plazas around the country, and he urged that his countrymen be allowed to express their opinions through the ballot box.

Egyptian demonstrations from aboveEgyptian demonstrations from above

Video shows clashes at Cairo University

Morsy defies military’s ultimatum

Photos, videos capture Egypt in crisis

“One of the mistakes I cannot accept — as the president of all Egyptians — is to side with one party over another, or to present the scene from one side only. To be fair, we need to listen to the voice of people in all squares,” the statement read.

But as night fell Wednesday, troops surrounded a pro-Morsy demonstration at a Cairo mosque and took control of a key bridge across the Nile River. Gehad El-Haddad, a spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood, reported via Twitter that tanks were on the streets.

Morsy was said to be working from a complex belonging to the country’s Republican Guard, across the street from the presidential palace, according to Egyptian state media. Reuters reported that troops were setting up barricades around that facility.

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the U.S. government — Egypt’s leading ally — could not confirm reports of a coup. Psaki said the United States is not taking sides and urged all parties to come to a peaceful resolution to the “tense and fast-moving” situation.

Coup allegation

An aide, Essam El Haddad, said in a Facebook posting that a coup was under way and warned that the generals risked bloodshed by moving against Morsy.

“Today, only one thing matters. In this day and age, no military coup can succeed in the face of sizable popular force without considerable bloodshed,” wrote El Haddad, who works in the office of the assistant to the president on foreign relations. “Who among you is ready to shoulder that blame?”

“In a democracy, there are simple consequences for the situation we see in Egypt: The president loses the next election or his party gets penalized in the upcoming parliamentary elections. Anything else is mob rule,” he added.

But Naguib Abadeer, a member of the opposition Free Egyptians Party, said what was under way “is not by any means a military coup. This is a revolution.”

“The people have decided that Mr. Morsy was no longer the legitimate leader of Egypt,” he told CNN.

Abadeer said Morsy lost his legitimacy in November, when he declared courts could not review his decrees and ousted the country’s prosecutor-general. He said Morsy’s supporters in the Muslim Brotherhood — the Islamist movement that propelled Morsy to the presidency — “hijacked the vote of the people” by running on a religious platform, “so these were not democratic elections.”

On Tuesday night, Morsy had vowed that he would not comply with the military’s 48-hour ultimatum and demanded that the armed forces stand down.

“If the price of upholding this legitimacy is my own blood, I am, therefore, ready to sacrifice my blood for this country and its stability,” he said.

But political analyst Hisham Kassem said the speech was Morsy’s “final bluff.”

“He was trying to give the impression ‘We are there in numbers, and we are going to retaliate, we are not going to allow this to happen.’ However, with almost 24 hours since his message, it’s clear his supporters will not dare challenge the crowds on the street,” Kassem said.

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He added, “I think President Morsy effectively is no longer running the country.” And faced with the throngs that filled Cairo’s Tahrir Square, “the military had to intervene. Otherwise this crowd was going to get Morsy from his palace.”

Egypt’s anti-Morsy protestors — in their own words

Reports of a TV studio takeover

Reuters and several other news organizations reported that Egyptian troops had “secured the central Cairo studios of state television” as the deadline approached and that staff not working on live shows had departed.

CNN has not confirmed the reports; state television denied in an on-air banner that there was any additional military presence at its studios.

Massive demonstrations for and against the former Muslim Brotherhood leader who was elected to office a year ago have been largely peaceful.

But 23 people died, health officials said, and hundreds more were injured in clashes overnight at Cairo University, the state-funded Al-Ahram news agency reported.

Protest leaders have called for nonviolence.

Opinion: Give Morsy a chance to fix this

Egypt’s military met Wednesday with religious, national, political and youth leaders to address the crisis, Egyptian military spokesman Ahmed Ali said through his Facebook page.

Egypt protesters’ message to Morsy: Go

Hours earlier, an opposition spokesman accused the United States of propping up Morsy out of concern for neighboring Israel.

“The hour of victory is coming,” said Mahmoud Badr of the Tamarod opposition group. He predicted that the “illegitimate president” would be gone by the end of the day.

“Not America, not Morsy, not anyone can impose their will on the Egyptian people,” Badr said.

Opinion: Egyptians are fed up with Morsy

Switching sides

With the ultimatum, the armed forces appeared to have thrown their weight behind those opposed to Morsy’s Islamic government.

Early Wednesday, soldiers and police set up a perimeter around the opposition’s central meeting point, Cairo’s Tahrir Square, “to secure it from any possible attack,” the state-run EgyNews agency reported.

It was the police who, on the same spot in 2011, killed hundreds when they fired upon democratic, moderate and Islamic demonstrators seeking to overthrow Hosni Mubarak, the country’s longtime autocratic leader and U.S. ally.

Mubarak had repressed the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamic political movement that emerged as the nation’s most powerful political force once Mubarak was ousted.

At a pro-democracy protest in Cairo, demonstrators expressed anger and fear over what the coming hours could bring.

The Muslim Brotherhood spokesman, Gehad El-Haddad, told CNN that tanks and armored vehicles — accompanied by thugs carrying knives, pistols and ammunition — had been moved to the northern and southern entrances of the square in an apparent attempt to drive them out.

The military fired warning shots into the air, and shot one Muslim Brotherhood member in the leg, El-Haddad said, but the remaining protesters were standing in defiance in front of the tanks.

Some of the protesters oppose Morsy but also oppose pushing from power a democratically elected leader, he said. “Under no circumstances will we ever accept a military-backed coup,” he said.

But many of the democratic reformers and moderates who accused Morsy’s government of moving in an authoritarian direction now support former Mubarak allies and others fed up with the nation’s direction in calling for the restoration of order through the military.

They have been pushing to oust Morsy and his Muslim conservative government, whose leaders were drawn primarily from the ranks of the Muslim Brotherhood. They say they have collected more than 20 million signatures on a petition to remove him — millions more than the number who voted Morsy into the presidency.

In recent days, anti-Morsy demonstrators have ransacked Muslim Brotherhood offices all over the country.

Protesters: We’re not going; he must go

Morsy’s close adviser speaks to Amanpour

Interactive map: Explore the locations of protests in Cairo, Egypt. Photos: AFP/Getty Images

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The military’s plans

Military leaders have told Arab media that they were planning to suspend the constitution, dissolve the parliament and sideline Morsy.

In his place, they would install a mainly civilian interim council until a new constitution can be drafted and a new president elected.

The military’s ultimatum was intended to push all factions toward a national consensus, not to seize power through a coup, a spokesman, Col. Ahmed Ali, said Monday in a

 

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