The Egyptian military have ousted the country’s first democratically elected leader in less than a year
Tahrir Square was jubilant tonight as the Egyptian Army took control of the key parts of Cairo, with state media and key routes in and out of the city now under the control of the generals. President Morsi, the country’s first democratically leader, has been locked out of the Presidential Palace, and is reportedly forbidden from leaving the country. It is unclear whether he is under house arrest. The coup came after an army ultimatum calling for Morsi stepped down, expired at 15:30 GMT.
At approximately 19:30 the army told Morsi that he was no longer the president. At the time of going to press, there were reports of violence in 16 governorships across Egypt.
Supporters of President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood have centred in the Nasr City district of Cairo, seemingly determined to keep their man in power. Units of the Egyptian Army are surrounding the area but have been given orders not to fire unless in self defence.
Morsi had issued a statement seemingly offering the chance of a coalition government, but seemingly to no avail. In his speech, Morsi used the word ‘legitimacy’ thirty times, understandably emphasising that he had been democratically elected and had a mandate to serve.
It has been two years since Hosni Mubarak became the third Arab leader to fall in the wave of unrest unleashed by the Arab Spring. Following a year of clumsy rule by SCAF (Supreme Council of the Armed Forces), two rounds of elections were held, with the previously banned Muslim Brotherhood taking control of parliament. But in a nod to the influence of the army, they ensured that the generals maintained their budgets and their lucrative grip on swathes of the Egyptian economy.
A year on and Morsi has shown less and less mood for compromise or reform. He awarded himself the power to suspend judges who resisted legislation, and moved to allow even greater control of the press. Last month he appointed a former extremist to governorship of Luxor, then held a rally calling for jihadists to fight in Syria. These seem to have been perceived as overt threats to the secular constitution, and promoted the protests. It is unlikely the army were the catalysts for the protests, but they would not have been disappointed either, as evidenced by the joyous fly pasts by flag carrying helicopters.
As things stand, the military chiefs, probably led by the charismatic General Sisi, have concluded a meeting with religious and political leaders. In a statement, the army pledged an interim period of government, followed by a fresh round of elections. Most analysts think the army would be keen to maintaining direct control for too long, conscious of the anti-military protests last year in the run up to the last round of elections.
Longer term, the future is less clear. Egypt’s problems, inflation, a bloated state sector, chronic unemployment, fuel shortages, a hyper powerful military, and a demographic nightmare of disposed youth. were decades in the making, and will take decades to resolve. Unfortunately for the next rulers of Egypt, the mob are seldom that patient.