How do world leaders know that it’s been a bad day? When your government has to send out one of its ministers to deny it has collapsed, that’s a pretty sure sign:
Egypt’s justice minister denied an al-Arabiya television report that the government had resigned on Tuesday after the armed forces gave President Mohamed Mursi 48 hours to agree to share power in response to mass protests.
“The government has not submitted its resignation and what has been raised on that matter is not true,” Justice Minister Ahmed Suleiman told reporters after a meeting of the rump cabinet under Prime Minister Hisham Kandil.
That may be a matter of degree, however. Six ministers have confirmed that they resigned from Morsi’s government, none of them from the Muslim Brotherhood. However, two more failed to show up for the cabinet session, and those two are critical to the survival of Morsi in the crisis. Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim, an independent, would have nominal charge of civilian security, and Defense Minister Abdul al-Sisi runs the Egyptian army — and both were no-shows, apparently.
Sisi, of course, is the man giving Morsi ultimatums. Morsi tried shrugging them off earlier today, but his options look increasingly limited:
President Mohamed Mursi rebuffed an army ultimatum to force a resolution to Egypt’s political crisis, saying on Tuesday that he had not been consulted and would pursue his own plans for national reconciliation.
But the Islamist leader looked increasingly isolated, with ministers resigning, the liberal opposition refusing to talk to him and the armed forces, backed by millions of protesters in the street, giving him until Wednesday to agree to share power.
Newspapers across the political spectrum saw the army’s 48-hour deadline as a turning point. “Last 48 hours of Muslim Brotherhood rule,” the opposition daily El Watan declared. “Egypt awaits the army,” said the state-owned El Akhbar.
Not everyone agrees, of course. The Muslim Brotherhood appealed to Egyptians to support constitutional government over a “coup”:
The Brotherhood’s political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party, said the Egyptian people alone had the right to draw a roadmap for the nation and had done so in the constitution approved in a referendum last December.
It called on the people “to rally to defend constitutional legitimacy and express their refusal of any coup against it.”
The people are rallying, surely, but not on behalf of the Muslim Brotherhood or its arrogant wielding of power since winning an election for which only they had time to prepare. They effectively shut out any other voices while reworking the constitution, fixing the field so that only they could effectively compete in the future. Now they want to claim that the people are invested in the new form of constitutional republic, only to discover that the Muslim Brotherhood has isolated itself through its own hubris and overreach.
If Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood want to salvage anything out of this trainwreck, perhaps that might be the place to start. Otherwise, they’re about to discredit themselves for a generation and recreate the military dominance that they had despised for decades.