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:
But after two days of massive protests against Morsi, [the Salafist Call] endorsed the opposition’s main demand (early presidential elections), and also called for a government of technocrats and a committee for constitutional amendments.
The opposition bloc, Rebel, has endorsed Mohamed ElBaradei as its leader and spokesman (and presumed presidential candidate), according to Al Ahram. ElBaradei, the former chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency, won international plaudits for his opposition to George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq and for his calm, measured approach to the Iranian nuclear issue. Says Al Ahram:
ElBaradei will also be mediating between state institutions and all political forces to draw a map for political transition.
Rebel has already announced that when the military’s forty-eight-hour ultimatum is up, it will assign a delegation to speak directly to the Supreme Military Council about what comes next, bypassing Morsi and Egypt’s elected government. Reports Reuters:
The coalition that backed Sunday’s protests said there was no question of negotiating now with Morsi on the general’s timetable and it was already formulating positions for discussion directly with the army once the 48 hours are up.
The army statement on Monday read, in part:
“The armed forces warns everyone that if the demands of the people are not met during this set time period, it will be obliged … to announce a roadmap and measures for the future, which it would oversee in collaboration with all the loyal national factions and movements, including the youth who were and remain the spark of the glorious revolution. No one would be ignored.”
According to Reuters, Morsi’s chief military adviser also resigned. The agency reports:
Mursi’s military adviser, U.S.-trained former chief-of-staff General Sami Enan, also resigned.
“The Egyptian people have spoken and as a result everyone must listen and implement, especially since this unprecedented (protest) was accompanied by the fall of some martyrs which is unacceptable because Egyptian blood is valued highly and must be preserved,” Enan told Al Arabiya television.
El-Watan quoted senior General Adel El-Mursi as saying that if there were no agreement among political leaders to hold early presidential elections, the alternative could involve “a return to revolutionary legitimacy”.
Under that scenario, the sole functioning chamber of parliament, the Islamist-dominated Shura Council, would be dissolved, the Islamist-tinged constitution enacted under Mursi would be scrapped, and a presidential council would rule by decree until fresh elections could be held under new rules, he was quoted as saying. That is largely the opposition position.
Sharif Abdel Kouddous writes about why, one year after Morsi’s election, Egyptians are now demanding his resignation.