It all happened in the space of just a few hours, in the stifling heat of August, in Cairo. It took Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi a mere few hours to do what revolutionists in Tahrir Square have been demanding loudly for more than one and a half years. Yet, he did it his way. The president, who was elected on June 18 as a representative of the “Muslim Brotherhood”, removed the army leadership with defence minister Hussein Tantawi and the head of the general staff first and foremost, and announced their successors.Yet, Morsi would not stop there. He also chose a vice-president, to suggest that he is going to make changes, and cancelled the provisional Constitution enforced two months ago which gave special powers to the military. We will develop, he insisted on saying, a new, modern state.
Obviously, one cannot overlook the fact that Tantawi, the Suez hero in 1956, had led the army for the past 20 years, was appointed de facto president by Mubarak himself, in order to rein in the revolts in Tahrir Square. The 76-year-old field marshal was invited by the incumbent president to stay on as his adviser. Tantawi’s successor as head of the general staff and defence minister is 58-year-old Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, one of the youngest generals in the Egyptian Army.We should also remind that the heads of the Navy and the Air Force, too, shared Tantawi’s fate , as well as the heads of the secret services. It shouldn’t be overlooked either that Egypt’s man No 2, the vice-president namely, is not exactly a nobody, but a well-known judge, Mahmoud Mekki, an outstanding figure from among the opposition (and therefore of the Revolution of January 25), one of the magistrates that took a definite stand against Mubarak.Of the many questions political observers asked themselves these days, a few gained prominence, as follows: What made Morsi act in such surprising, and why not saying it, risky way? How are the senior military going to react, and the generals first and foremost? Will they come to terms with their ousting, or has an agreement been reached between the president and the generals? Even if the answers to these questions are yet unknown, what is quite clear for now is the power being increasingly in the hands of the “Muslim Brotherhood”. There is a president, yet not a Constitution. Not only that Morsi replaced the leadership of the armed forces, but he also cancelled those amendments passed in such great haste by the military in order to restrict his prerogatives. Basically, as a result of the measures passed, Morsi becomes the head of the Egyptian state with all the duties that go with it and consolidates the transition of power from the military to civilians.Morsi’s move cannot but be linked to last week’s attack against the Egyptian Police in Sinai that left 16 agents dead and the action that followed against the terrorists belonging to an extremist wing of the of the Salafit Party. That was also the day the “Aquila” military campaign began aimed at getting hold of Sinai. Morsi positioned himself on the military’s side of the action, yet, in the wake of the events, he decided to replace the head of the General Intelligence Directorate, Murad Muwafi.We cannot but emphasize the contribution of Mohamed ElBaradei, the former director of the Atomic Energy Agency, a member of the opposition, who welcomed Morsi’s measures. He however warned against the danger for the president to subordinate both the legislative and executive power, reason for which he asked for the formation of the Constituent Assembly made up of representative of all the societal segments, to assume legislative power until legislative elections are held. Otherwise, all would only amount to power changing hands, from the army to President Morsi. “The way things look now, this could only be a new phase of the authoritarian regime,” Robert Springborg, a professor at the Naval Postgraduate School of the US Department of State and an Egyptian Army expert, told daily newspaper “Al-Masry Al-Youm”.