A protester, opposing Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, holds a book titled President Morsi Building a New Egypt in front of the headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo’s Moqattam district July 1, 2013. (Reuters/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)
Two years after the revolt that toppled Hosni Mubarak, Egypt is teetering on the edge of an explosion.
President Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood stand-in who was elected president a year ago, has now defied the military’s forty-eight-hour ultimatum that he give in to the demands of protesters, millions of whom have streamed into the streets. Despite growing international pressure, the resignations of most of the non–Muslim Brotherhood ministers of his government—including the foreign minister—and spreading protests, Morsi seems willing to call the army’s bluff. We’ll find out in the next day or so if the army is bluffing.
And the Muslim Brotherhood, which has a long history of paramilitary activity, is building its own defense force in preparation for what could become a civil war.
Though Morsi was reported to have met with General Sisi, the defense minister who issued the ultimatum, late on Monday night, no sign of a deal has yet emerged, and Morsi remained defiant on Tuesday morning. Not only the army, but the police and the interior ministry, too, are backing the opposition protesters. According to The Guardian:
As the night wore on, Morsi’s position seemed ever more untenable, with the Ministry of the Interior announcing its “complete solidarity” with Egypt’s armed forces, and the army taking control of local government headquarters in Fayoum, a governorship south of Cairo.
President Obama has called Morsi, from Tanzania, to urge him to listen to the protesters. General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has called General Sisi, the Egyptian defense minister and spokesman for the military council—although there’s no word on what Dempsey said. The United Nations’ top human rights official, Navi Pillay, has also urged Morsi to make a deal.
Opposition newspapers, such as Al Watan, are proclaiming: “Last 48 Hours of Muslim Brotherhood Rule!”
Problem is, it isn’t clear that any deal that Morsi is willing to make would be acceptable to the opposition coalition, Rebel (Tamarod). Rebel has called for Morsi’s resignation, new presidential elections, and a new constitution. It appears that the army supports that plan. And, according to Al Ahram, the ultraconservative Islamist group, the Salafist Call and its affiliated Nour party—which had earlier called for compromise—now supports an early presidential vote. Says Al Ahram: