The Islamists fight back
In the early hours of Tuesday 2 July, President Mursi rejected the 48-hour ultimatum declared by the army yesterday, which gave him and his opponents 48 hours to resolve the political standoff
In the early hours of Tuesday 2 July, President Mursi rejected the 48-hour ultimatum declared by the army yesterday, which gave him and his opponents 48 hours to resolve the political standoff, otherwise the military would step in with its own plan of action. It warned that the President and his opponents should heed “the will of the people”.
The spokesman for the presidency posted a statement on the official Facebook page, in which he stressed that the President—who is the Supreme Chief of the Armed Forces—had not been consulted on the army’s declaration. “The presidency sees that the wording of the declaration carried intonations that can work to sow confusion to the compound national scene.”
The President insisted the only way out was his own plan for national reconciliation. Mursi had called for dialogue with his opponents—these being the liberal and secular forces in Egypt, including the Church and the moderate, venerable Muslim institution of al-Azhar—but they rejected his call. Leaders of the National Salvation Front, a coalition of non-Islamist political parties and movements, said that experience on all levels has proved that dialogue with Mursi was futile since it never translated into anything on the ground, but was merely exploited to lend legitimacy to his decisions.
The army’s ultimatum was announced yesterday by Colonel General Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, Commander-in-Chief of the Egyptian Armed Forces, in a televised address. The military denied that it was interested in ruling or government, but many analysts expect its intervention to amount to a soft coup.
Millions of Egyptians took to the streets on 30 June, the date that marks one year since Mursi was sworn in as president, and have been on the streets ever since, to demand an end to his presidency and to his Muslim Brotherhood (MB)-dominated ruling regime. They denounce his attempts at Islamising Egypt and his failure at running the country. Since he came to office Egypt has suffered from rising radicalisation, placing power in the hands of the Islamists, and an economy that has nosedived.
The demonstrations had been called for by the grassroots movement Tamarud which had
sprung up some three months ago and vowed to gather signatures to bring down the President on the first anniversary of taking office, 30 June. The target had been to exceed the 15 million votes that brought Mursi into office, but Tamarud claims it gathered more than 22 million signatures. The numbers of protestors that have spilled into the streets since last Sunday demanding the ouster of Mursi lend the 22 million figure ample credibility. Before the army announced its ultimatum, Tamarud had given Mursi 48 hours to step down; otherwise they would declare civil disobedience.
The crowds of ‘rebels’, Mursi’s opponents, filling the streets took yesterday’s army ultimatum to mean that the army would force him to step down. They spent a night of jubilant rejoicing in the streets. Yet it remains to be seen how exactly the army’s ultimatum will translate on the ground.
But the MB do not seem to be giving in, at least not without a fight. They have vowed to avenge the assault on their offices in many places all over the country, especially the ransacking and torching of their headquarters in the Cairo district of Muqattam.
MB leading figure Muhammad al-Beltagui called upon Mursi supporters to mobilise their numbers and rally for Mursi in all public places and squares, not only in front of the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque in the east Cairo district of Nasr City where they had gathered. This was taken by mainstream Egyptians to be tantamount to a call for jihad, fighting in the name of Allah. Many fear that this is a call for violence that could take Egypt to the brink of civil war.
For the MB, it is a battle for survival. If they lose, they stand to lose all; they would no longer have any chance to talk of to make a comeback to power any time soon. Islamist demonstrations have already taken off in several Egyptian towns; in Suez, the demonstrators are chanting: “The people desire the application of the sharia (Islamic law) of Allah”.
The Egyptian Popular Stream, an opposition movement, has reported that busloads of MB supporters are being moved from the towns and villages of the Upper Egyptian governorates of Minya and Assiut to Cairo to join the protests by Mursi supporters. The locals say the Islamist demonstrators are armed, and the buses carry weapons and guns.
Clashes between Mursi supporters and opponents have already begun in several spots, among them the Cairo satellite town of 6 October.
Meanwhile, the Egyptian State under Mursi appears to be splitting at the seams. Some nine liberal and Coptic MPs resigned from the Shura Council, the upper house of Egypt’s parliament which now holds the power of legislation in the absence of a lower house. Six cabinet ministers have so far also resigned, the most recent being the Foreign Affairs Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr who joined the ministers of tourism, environment, water resources, communication, and legal affairs. Three regional governors have also resigned their posts.
All the resignations were said to be “in solidarity with the will of the people”. It will not be surprising if more resignations follow.
The Council of Egypt’s Churches issued a declaration welcoming and applauding the army’s initiative which, according to the declaration, sided by the people.
The Secretary-General of the Holy Synod of the Coptic Church tweeted in applause of the army, and in solidarity with its call for upholding reason and wisdom to prevent bloodshed and reach a situation where all on the Egyptian spectrum would be included.
Pope Tawadros II tweeted a cheer of applause for the “people, the army, and Egypt’s youth. May Egypt live free and strong!”
2 July 2013