Mohamed Morsy is now a former president of
Egypt. After tipping its hand by seizing the country's state broadcasters and
moving armored vehicles into Cairo, the military deposed Egypt's first freely
elected leader on Wednesday and installed Adly Mansour, head of Egypt's Supreme
Constitutional Court, as interim head of state. The coup comes on the heels of
days of unrest -- including massive anti-government demonstrations that drew
millions into the street over the weekend -- and the lapse of a deadline set by
the military for Morsy to form a coalition government.
In a statement
broadcast live to the nation, Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the chairman of Egypt's
Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), said that the constitution had been
temporarily suspended and that Mansour will have the power to make
constitutional declarations until new elections can be held. A government that
and diverse" will be formed to rule Egypt in the meantime, said Sisi, who replaced
Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi as head of the SCAF last August.
The shakeup thrusts a little-known judge
into the spotlight, and entrusts him with the unenviable task of shepherding
Egypt to its next presidential and legislative elections, which could take
place in as little as three to six months. But Mansour, a veteran of the
Supreme Constitutional Court who only just became its chairman on July 1, will
not hold ultimate authority.
"He is not the president of Egypt in the
same way that Morsy or Mubarak were presidents of Egypt," Tarek Masoud, an associate professor of
public policy at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, tells Foreign Policy. The
best analogy, according to Masoud, is probably Sufi Abu Taleb, who served as acting head of state for eight days
following the assassination of Anwar Sadat in 1981.
administration of the country is going to be in the hands of the military, but
they had to put a constitutional face on it. [Mansour] is under no illusions
about the extent of his power," says Masoud.
Despite his subordinate position, however, Mansour
will likely exercise considerable control over the drafting of a new election
law, experts say. "His main job will be to get an electoral law done," Michael
Wahid Hanna, a fellow at the Century Foundation, tells FP. Over the past year, the Supreme
Constitutional Court has twice invalidated electoral laws drafted by the Shura
Council, Egypt's upper house of parliament. The result, according to Hanna, has
been a delay in holding parliamentary elections and a deepening of the
political crisis in Egypt.
removal of Morsy was greeted with jubilation by opponents of the president --
some 22 million of whom had signed a petition of no-confidence in his government
-- but it is likely to deepen the rift between Islamists and more secular
Egyptians. Already, reports that the military has shut down Islamist
satellite channels -- including
the Muslim Brotherhood's Egypt25 channel and the Salafist controlled al-Nass,
al-Hifaz, and al-Amjaad channels -- have sparked outrage from Morsy's supporters,
many of whom have vowed to back him until the end.
rift has the potential to devolve into outright conflict if the transition goes
awry, and Salafists and members of the Muslim Brotherhood are alienated from
the process. The takeover of Islamist media, says Masoud, "feels like a war
that's only just starting."
the 1990s, the Mubarak regime fought what was essentially a low-level civil war
against Islamists, whose officially banned organizations continued to operate
in secret. If the military moves to further marginalize the Brotherhood, Egypt
could find itself in a similar situation -- except in a country that's been flooded
with weapons from the Libyan civil war.
The fact that
the military has essentially been invited back into power by opponents of the
Brotherhood has the potential to further destabilize the situation. "The SCAF
will be less constrained this time around because people have tried out the
Muslim Brotherhood," says Masoud. "The great silent majority has no more appetite
for massive protests, so the military could essentially role into Tahrir Square
and [squash] the protests" without provoking much popular outcry.
Still, there are indications that the
military has learned to soften its touch since the last time it was at the
helm. In the 18 months after Mubarak's ouster, Tantawi, the SCAF's chairman,
ruled Egypt as an unfettered monarch; this time, the military has sought out the
counsel of top religious authorities as well as opposition leader and former
U.N. diplomat Mohamed ElBaradei. It has also very deliberately chosen the
Supreme Constitutional Court as the public face of power.
Whether or not SCAF 2.0 can keep Egypt
from fracturing into utter chaos in the coming months remains very much an open
question. Morsy has rejected
his removal as a "complete military coup" and many of his followers -- some of
them armed -- continue to demonstrate on his behalf. To his credit, Morsy urged
Egyptians of all stripes to "maintain peacefulness" and "avoid being involved
in the blood of the people of the homeland." Here's hoping they listen.