Morsi rejects Egyptian military ultimatum
More huge crowds are packing the streets of Egypt to demand the resignation of President Mohammed Morsi, who says he’s not going anywhere, and he doesn’t care about the 48-hour ultimatum delivered by the respected Egyptian military, either. According to a Reuters report, the army is already treating Morsi like yesterday’s news and planning to restructure the government after he’s gone:
Egypt’s army has plans to push Mohamed Mursi aside and suspend the constitution after an all but impossible ultimatum it has given the Islamist president expires in less than 24 hours, military sources told Reuters on Tuesday.
Condemning a coup against their first freely elected leader, tens of thousands of Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood supporters took to the streets, clashing with opponents in several towns. But they appeared to be dwarfed by anti-government protesters who turned out in their hundreds of thousands across the nation.
Troops were on alert after warnings of a potential civil war. Seven people died in fighting in Cairo suburbs and hundreds were wounded in the provinces.
Mursi defied a demand by the armed forces chief on Monday that he agree to share power with his opponents within 48 hours or have the generals take charge. Calling the army statement misleading and divisive, he said he would stick to his own plan.
But time has all but run out for Mursi, as liberal leaders are refusing to talk to him. Opponents have been dancing in the streets since the intervention by General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
Military sources told Reuters that, assuming the politicians failed to end a year of deadlock under Mursi before Wednesday’s 5 p.m. (1500 GMT) deadline, the generals had their own draft program ready to implement – though it could be fine-tuned in consultation with willing political parties.
It doesn’t sound like there’s much interest in inviting Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood pals to the big fine-tuning party. The army’s “roadmap” involves installing “an interim council, composed mainly of civilians from different political groups and experienced technocrats, to run the country until an amended constitution was drafted within months.” Nope, don’t see anything about Mohammed Morsi in there, although it looks like there will be room for opposition gadfly Mohammed ElBaradei, as well as “leaders of the Tamarud youth movement, which initiated mass rallies on Sunday that the army says prompted it to act.”
The military has intervened to break up some of the big street battles between demonstrators and Morsi supporters, and is also looking to protect the Suez Canal, without whose smooth operation Morsi’s moribund economy would seem like the good old days.
The Muslim Brotherhood doesn’t sound ready to throw in the towel, as reported by the Associated Press. (Incidentally, every single report from a U.S. media source I’ve read about Egypt today has employed a “ticking clock” metaphor.)
With the clock ticking on the military’s ultimatum, many in the anti-Morsi and pro-Morsi camps were vowing to fight to the end.
The president’s Islamist backers have stepped up warnings that it will take bloodshed to dislodge him, saying they would rather die fighting a military takeover than accept Morsi’s ouster just a year after the country’s first free election.
“Seeking martyrdom to prevent the ongoing coup is what we can offer as a sign of gratitude to previous martyrs who died in the revolution,” Brotherhood stalwart Mohammed el-Beltagi wrote Tuesday in his official Facebook page.
Clashes broke out around pro-Morsi marches in several parts of the capital and a string of cities to the north and south. Morsi opponents stormed Brotherhood offices in two towns. At least 16 have been killed since Sunday in clashes, most of them anti-Morsi protesters shot to death by Islamists.
The Obama Administration has been somewhat cautiously supporting Morsi, per NBC News (which got the “ticking clock” metaphor right into the very first line of their article, for those keeping score):
The White House said in a statement Tuesday that Obama had called Morsi on Monday, urging him to listen to “the voices of all Egyptians.”
Obama told Morsi that the United States was “committed to the democratic process in Egypt and does not support any single party or group.”
But the president also “stressed that democracy is about more than elections.”
“It is also about ensuring that the voices of all Egyptians are heard and represented by their government, including the many Egyptians demonstrating throughout the country,” the statement said.
Obama encouraged Morsi “to take steps to show that he is responsive to their concerns, and underscored that the current crisis can only be resolved through a political process,” it added.
The President also commendably expressed concern about the reports of violence and sexual assaults during the demonstrations. Members of the American Tea Party will be gratified to know President Obama now believes “democracy is about more than elections” and the voices of dissidents must be “heard and represented by their government.” Better late than never!
It looks as if the Egyptian military wants to run another set of elections that gives political forces other than the Muslim Brotherhood more time to get organized. Maybe if the preceding dictator’s offer to cede power in a more graceful and controlled fashion had been accepted, Egypt wouldn’t be in this mess now. Hosni Mubarak was damaged goods, and Egyptians were sick of his regime’s corruption, but they seem even more dismayed by what replaced him, judging by the size of those demonstrations.