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Tension palpable as Egypt's Tantawi, Morsi honour military graduates

At loggerheads over Egypt’s parliament, President Morsi and the military council together honoured the alumni of the military faculties, but the atmosphere was tense

Ahram Online, Tuesday 10 Jul 2012
Egypt's President Mohamed Morsi (C), head of the military council Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi (L) and Egyptian armed forces Chief of Staff Sami Anan attend a graduation ceremony for air forces cadets in Sharqiya (Photo: Reuters)
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The ongoing political conflict between Mohamed Morsi and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) over the past few days set the tone at the annual graduation ceremonies of Egypt’s military faculties on Monday and Tuesday reported Maha Sallam, Al-Ahram’s military correspondent.

Side by side, despite disagreements, the newly inaugurated president and the top generals of the military body honoured the alumni, though they could not hide the aggravating tensions during the event, Sallam reported.

The ceremonies came immediately after Morsi issued a presidential decree ordering the reinstatement of the People’s Assembly (Parliament’s lower house).  A number of legal and political experts have criticised the decree for disregarding Egypt’s judicial authority.

Last month, before the election of Morsi as Egypt’s first civilian president, the SCAF issued a decision to dissolve the People’s Assembly, following a High Constitutional Court (HCC) ruling that the law that regulated last winter’s parliamentary polls was unconstitutional.

Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood have also been demanding the abrogation of the SCAF-introduced annex to the interim March Constitutional Deceleration, which some legal experts say has given the military unfettered powers at the expense of those of the president  

Amid the ongoing tug-of-war between the president and the military, Sallam relates that Morsi seemed to have faced the cold-shoulder from the military generals at the graduation ceremonies, including Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the head of the SCAF who was Egypt’s de-facto ruler from the ouster of Mubarak till the inauguration of Morsi last month.

On Monday morning, hours after Morsi's presidential decree reinstating the People's Assembly. Tantawi received Morsi – as he used to welcome Mubarak for years – at the military technical institute, where the 41th graduation ceremony of the military faculties was held.

Morsi, who arrived in his own car, however, was not escorted by Tantawi and both men barely spoke to each other throughout the day. Sallam also put the cancellation of several segments of the ceremony towards the end down to hostility between the two figures.

On Tuesday, Morsi attended another military graduation ceremony in Belbees, Morsi’s hometown in the northern Nile Delta Sharqiya governorate. Sallam reports that the atmosphere here was also characterised by tension.

Morsi, whose trip to Belbees was the first since he was inaugurated as president, travelled by military plane before he was taken in the presidential car, along with Tantawi, to the military technical institute.

Notably, the families of the graduates who attended the ceremony chanted pro-military slogans as the results were recited. “The army and the people [are] one hand” and “Long live Field Marshal [Tantawi]” were among the chants. No one, however, repeated slogans praising Morsi or the Brotherhood.

The Judges Club – an unofficial body of Egypt’s judges – threatened to take firm legal action against Morsi unless he backtracked on his decision to restore the lower chamber. However the presidential office remains adamant that Morsi's decree did not disregard the HCC’s verdict but only overturned the executive decision of the SCAF to dissolve the People’s Assembly. 

On Tuesday evening the HCC issued a ruling suspending Morsi's presidential decree reinstating the People's Assembly.

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