The elected government in Cairo just marked its one-year anniversary in power, but few feel like celebrating it. Protesters attacked the headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Egyptian capital, where most of the sixteen deaths in the unrest overnight took place. Egyptians want the resignation of President Mohamed Morsi and an end to Islamist-dominated government:
Protesters stormed and ransacked the Cairo headquarters of President Mohammed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood group early Monday, in an attack that could spark more violence as demonstrators gear up for a second day of mass rallies aimed at forcing the Islamist leader from power.
They have issued an ultimatum to both the government and the military:
Organizers of the protests, meanwhile, gave Morsi until 5 p.m. on Tuesday to step down and called on the police and the military to clearly state their support for what the protest movement called the popular will.
So far, the Chicago Tribune reports, the army remains “inscrutable”:
The breadth of the protests was a stunning rejection of Morsi, and the country’s immediate future appeared to hinge on several questions: Can the president survive massive, sustained protests? Will the disparate opposition stay energized? And, if widespread violence ignites, will the military take control of the government as it did immediately after the uprising that overthrew autocrat Hosni Mubarak two years ago?
The army has remained inscrutable. Defense Minister Gen. Abdel Fattah Sisi has so far sided with the president and has not hinted at a military takeover. The army’s rule from 2011 until Morsi’s election drew condemnation from human rights groups and blemished its once stellar reputation among most Egyptians.
But Sisi has said he will not allow the country to veer into a “dark tunnel” of political collapse and economic turmoil. In a startling image of how much the public mood has changed over the last year, thousands of protesters, including young mothers and old men, cheered and waved flags at army helicopters flying overhead, a sign that many Egyptians would back a coup.
“When the military was in control, things were better. Now we have power cuts, no fuel, and everything’s going bad,” said Mohammad Khaled, a 19-year-old electrician who stood in Cairo’s Tahrir Square beneath a clear sky. “Morsi promised he would fix many problems in his first 100 days but did nothing…. If he’s not able to handle it, then he should let someone else do the work.
“We succeeded in removing Mubarak, who was here for 30 years; you don’t think we can remove Morsi, who has only been here for a year?” Khaled said. “We’ve been preparing for this day for over two months, and I will stay until he says, ‘I’m stepping down.'”
The army didn’t stay inscrutable for long. They’ve just issued an ultimatum of their own:
Egypt military says it will be "forced to act in 48 hours," if people's demands are not met. http://t.co/Wdy2SYXvSt
— WSJ Breaking News (@WSJbreakingnews) July 1, 2013
Egypt’s powerful armed forces issued a virtual ultimatum to Islamist President Mohamed Mursi on Monday, calling on the nation’s feuding politicians to agree on an inclusive roadmap for the country’s future within 48 hours.
A dramatic military statement broadcast on state television declared the nation was in danger after millions of Egyptians took to the streets on Sunday to demand that Mursi quit and the headquarters of the ruling Muslim Brotherhood were ransacked.
“If the demands of the people are not realised within the defined period, it will be incumbent upon (the armed forces)… to announce a road map for the future,” said the statement by chief-of-staff General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. It was followed by patriotic music.
The people had expressed their will with unprecedented clarity in the mass demonstrations and wasting more time would only increase the danger of division and violence, he said.
The army said it would oversee the implementation of the roadmap it sought “with the participation of all factions and national parties, including young people”, but it would not get directly involved in politics or government.
It took decades for Egyptians to rebel against the military dictatorship that stretched from Nasser to Mubarak. It only took a year for the Islamists to discredit their governance. That’s good news in the long run, although it’s going to be bad news for Egyptians in the short term. The Army can make itself into a guarantor of liberal and secular democracy — in the same way the Turkish Army has operated for decades — as long as they don’t seize power just to keep it for themselves.
Update: There is some confusion about the number, but apparently at least a few of Morsi’s Cabinet ministers have resigned to join the opposition:
Ten ministers resign from the Egyptian government: Al Arabiya http://t.co/Bw6xO9p51T
— Al Arabiya English (@AlArabiya_Eng) July 1, 2013
- 3:40pm Ten ministers resign from the Egyptian government: Al Arabiya
An earlier report said that five ministers were considering resignations:
Egypt’s official news agency says five cabinet ministers are meeting to consider resigning their posts and joining the mass protests calling on the Islamist president to step down. The largest protest in Egypt since Mubarak sees millions of Egyptians demonstrating against President Mohammed Morsi.
Either Al-Arabiya overstated the number, or momentum is shifting badly against Morsi.