Military backing al-Sisi for President in Egypt-Here we go again..or? Part III, Morsi’s Presidency, Overthrow, and the coming Presidential election.
This is the final part of a Three part series on contemporary Egyptian politics. In Part One we saw that save for the one year rule by the Muslem Brotherhood’s candidate Morsi, the military;s candidate has won every presidency since the overthrow of King Farouk in 1952. In Part Two the extreme tensions between the military and the Brotherhood was described, including attempts by some affiliated with it to assassinate various leaders, being successful with Anwar Sadat. In Part Three we will look at the current scene from the election of Morsi, following the Arab Spring uprisings, up to the Presidental elections scheduled for April.
Morsi began his Presidency by removing the military’s Interim President Achmad Mohamed Shafik Zaki and, reportedly, twenty-four senior military that had supported Shafik, including Strongman Defense Minister Field Marshal Mohamad Hussain Tantawi. He then appointed General Abdulal-al-Sisi as Defense Minister. Morsi sought to assuage the fears of the United States, and others, that he would undo the Peace Treaty with Israel by writing a “friendly” letter to Israeli President Shimon Peres in which he addressed him as his “great and good friend.” Coptic Christians were concerned that Morsi would impose laws restrictive to Christian Egyptians and to address that he acknowledged that Coptic Christians had been Egyptians for “1400 years.” Like many before him he gave himself “special powers”–ostensibly to prevent former supporters of Mubarek from rising again. However, these actions were insufficient when it became clear that Morsi spoke out of two sides of his mouth. After his reassuring remarks to Peres, for example, his office denied that such a letter existed, then reversed itself in statements for international public consumption. He then sent his Prime Minister, Hesham Qandil to Hamas to reassure them that, despite his statements to the contrary, Morsi stood with Hamas. A video has circulated showing him saying, in contradiction to his initial reassurances to Israel and the West, that:
“The Zionists have no right to the land of Palestine. There is no place for them on the land of Palestine. What they took before 1947–48 constitutes plunder, and what they are doing now is a continuation of this plundering. By no means do we recognize their Green Line. The land of Palestine belongs to the Palestinians, not to the Zionists.”
Domestically, Morsi then pushed a Consitution favoring Islamist goals through a Brotherhood dominated Parliament. This touched off mass demonstrations by opponent of the Islamist government that saw tensions escalate when the Brotherhood confronted them with counter demonstrations. As tensions mounted, a deadline for violent demonstrations to end was put in place, but with things worsening, without waiting for the deadline’s end, the military acted and, in a coup, took over the government and arrested Morsi. This was done with apparent widespread popular support. The military’s takeover was justified in terms of public safety and stability.
It should be noted here that the military’s behaviors towards the protesters in the Arab Spring uprising were in stark contrast to the various police harsh actions, leading to a general sense of support of the military. Several witnesses to demonstrations in Tahir Square reported mass crowd chants that translate as “The people and the army are one hand.” And, at the height of the crisis that led to the overthrow of Morsi, following an ultimatum to both sides to resolve the crisis within forty-eight hours, BBC reported that army helicopters had thrown thousands of Egyptian flags over protesters in Tahir Square. Two days later, the army led by al-Sisi took control of the government. Once they had removed Morsi, the military ruling SCAF, Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, made judge Adly Mansour Interim President. In order, senior members of the Brotherhood were arrested, others rounded up and jailed, restrictions on participation in elections were imposed on them and a military backed Constitution with support of 98.1% of the vote was put in place.
Thus it can be seen that the military and the Brotherhood have been at odds for more than half a century, save for that one short year of Morsi’s presidency. With a heavy hand, the military-backed governments, restricted Brotherhood activities. On the other hand, the Brotherhood’s support for jihadi actions and goals of ultimately imposing Sharia law on Egypt, made any involvement in the governing of Egypt highly problematic.
Ironically, al-Sisi, who was put into place by the Brotherhood after Tantawa was deposed as head of the military, led the overthrow of Morsi, and is the military’s ruling council’s candidate for new presidential elections to be held in April. Early on when the Brotherhood had replaced Tantawa with al-Sisi, he was viewed by many as a possible front man for the Brotherhood. Likely this was a false view all along and al-Sisi was appointed to pacify the military following removal of Tantawa, and also because he had very strong ties to the United States.
As for the upcoming Presidential election, with the Brotherhood prevented from putting up a candidate, the charismatic and highly popular al-Sisi, running on a platform of stability, should be easily elected. Presumably the Brotherhood will ask its members to boycott the election, and before that, should Morsi be found guilty (his trial goes on as I write), it will be no surprise to see them resort to violence to express their outrage.
Martin, The Pragmatic Liberal writing on pragmaticliberalism.com