The Egyptian revolution entered a new phase yesterday when the military informed President Morsi that he no longer ran the country. Egypt’s first freely elected president is now under house arrest, and the military has selected the top judge of the Constitutional Court, Aldy Mahmud Mansour, as the temporary chief executive. New elections have yet to be scheduled. The Muslim Brotherhood, which backed Mr. Morsi, will now decide how violent this next stage is,
With the constitution suspended temporarily and an interim president sworn in, the military has promised to appoint a “strong and competent” civilian technocratic government. At the same time, the Supreme Court is to pass a draft law on parliamentary election and prepare for parliamentary and presidential polls. A “charter of honour” will be drawn up and followed by the media, and measures are to be taken to empower young people. A national reconciliation committee is to be formed as well.
All of that presumes that the military can keep a lid on any violence from pro-Morsi Egyptians. The BBC noted that President Mansour has “said he would safeguard ‘the spirit of the revolution’ which removed Hosni Mubarak from power in 2011, and would ‘put an end to the idea of worshipping the leader.’ He held out an olive branch to the Muslim Brotherhood, saying they were ‘part of this people and are invited to participate in building the nation’.”
After decades of operating in the shadows during the Sadat and Mubarak years, the Muslim Brotherhood won elections and took control of Egypt. One doubts they will react favorably to the new president’s kind words. The BBC’s Shaimaa Khalil in Cairo says “the Brotherhood is refusing to acknowledge the change in power and is planning to hold rallies across the country.” The military has arrested many of the “rotherhood’s leaders, but that doesn’t mean the Brotherhood will refrain from protesting or fighting back.
The military has brought about some short-term stability, but in the long-run, this coup may prove to be a mistake. The Muslim Brotherhood played by the rules and won power. In future, this will strengthen the hand of those more radical elements of the group when they argue for bullets over ballots. Moreover, if the Brotherhood should ever wield power again, a purge of the armed forces is almost inevitable, and that will prove very messy indeed.
Outside of Egypt, this will also have ramifications. Islamists throughout the Sunni nations must ask themselves whether the Egyptian coup sets a precedent for other nations. What point is there in working within a political system if the generals are going to undermine any democratically elected Islammist regime? The moderates are now in trouble, and that bodes ill for the region.