Taking advantage of the large-scale anti-terrorist operation the country’s army has been conducting against terrorist on the Sinai Peninsula for about a week, Egypt’s newly elected President Mohammed Mursi has staged an “anti- military coup” in Cairo. He ordered the head of the powerful Higher Military Council and Defence Minister, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, and several senior generals into retirement and canceled constitutional amendments issued by the military restricting presidential powers. A temporary constitutional declaration issued by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) on June 17, 2012, or before Morsi was sworn in to office, banned the president to rule on matters related to the military, including decisions about its leadership. Russian media say it is the end of diarchy in Egypt.
Mursi also sent into retirement the chief of army staff, General Sami Anan, and all commanders of combat branches, the Novye Izvestia writes. More to it, President Mursi made an unprecedented step and recalled all constitutional amendments restricting presidential powers.
The situation looks very much like a coup made by Muslim Brothers, of which Mursi is a member. But as a matter of fact, the newspaper writes, the situation is much more complicated. Mursi’s coup took place shortly after his talks with United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Does it mean that the coup was okeyed by the U.S. state secretary?,” the newspaper puts a question.
The paradox of the situation lies in the fact that the Islamist president stripped the military of power on the pretext that they are too passive in rebuffing Islamic radicals’ attacks on the Egyptian troops on the Sinai Peninsula. It is not clear which radical organizations are behind the attacks on Egyptian soldiers but, apparently, the mysterious organization Cairo is fighting against is linked with Palestinians. According to reports, Egyptians have blocked all the 150 tunnels which served to supply to Gaza utterly everything, from tooth brushes to motor vehicles, and, of course, arms and munitions.
Experts say that outcome of the conflict between the president and the military will depend on the situation on the Sinai Peninsula. It is not ruled out that if Mursi fails to defeat terrorists, the military led by Tanawi will still have their say.
It is not yet clear whether the Egyptian president’s move might provoke a constitutional crisis, the Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. Field Marshal Tanawi and other top-ranking generals from the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) have vested themselves with powers just before the presidential elections. Some experts say it is a system of “checks and counterbalances.” On the one hand, actual power was in the hands of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, and on the other hand, positions of the Muslim Brothers were growing stronger.
In an interview with the newspaper, Bagrat Seiranyan, the head of the Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Oriental Studies said he had doubts that Mursi would be able to remove Tanawi from the political scene soon. “Because the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces is backed by real forces – the army and those strata of society which have strong positions in the economic sphere. Mursi however is not strong enough to take such radical decision,” he said.
By cancelling the temporary constitutional declaration, which until recently served as Egypt’s constitution, Mursi gave to understand the an actual constitution was coming, the Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper writes. According to his decree, a special commission is already working on a new constitution.
Obviously, Mursi is clearing the political scene off former figures so he took preventive measures against the military not waiting for them to pull the blanket on themselves.
As of the military, their tranquility is quite understandable. The situation in the country has just somewhat stabilized and now that the world community has hailed the election results it is necessary to keep a democratic face. “No matter whether the military agree or disagree, they cannot but take popular moods into account and so they cannot afford unpopular measures. They might have taken power by force but they are sure to understand that they can do nothing with million-strong crowd,” said Gumer Isayev, the head of the St. Petersburg-based Centre for the Middle East Studies. “So they simply have to take people’s opinion into account because any abrupt steps, even if supported by the West or by the Gulf countries, might end up in a catastrophe and the military would not be able to keep the power in their hands anyway.”