Morsi's Sunday surprise met with broad support by Egypt political forces

Randa Ali and Sara Mourad, Monday 13 Aug 2012

Political figures and groups from across spectrum voice broad support for president's Sunday move against Egypt's military, albeit with reservations in some cases

Mohammed Morsi
File photo: Egypt's President Mohammed Morsi opens his suit jacket to show to his supporters that he is not wearing body armor at Tahrir Square (Photo: AP)

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi's Sunday decision to retire the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF)'s Hussein Tantawi and Sami Anan, terminate the 18 June constitutional addendum, and appoint a new vice-president – reformist judge Mahmoud Mekki – has been broadly welcomed by most political forces and figures, albeit with reservations in some cases.

Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh, the former Muslim Brotherhood member who vied against Morsi in Egypt's recent presidential race, expressed satisfaction with the move, describing it as "a bona fide transfer of power to the president."

The SCAF's 18 June constitutional addendum had been widely seen as an attempt by the military to strip the president of several executive prerogatives.

"The revolution will always prevail," said Abul-Fotouh. "Our next battle will be for a constitution that preserves the rights of the people."

Former judge Mahmoud El-Khodeiry, for his part, head of the legislative committee in the People's Assembly (the lower house of Egypt's currently dissolved parliament), praised Morsi's decision to appoint Mekki as vice-president.

"We've been waiting for such decisions; we've been expecting them. I believe Mekki is a very good choice," El-Khodeiry said of the reformist judge. He added that Egypt's High Constitutional Court had "bet on a losing horse" when it had "favoured the SCAF" with its verdict in mid-June ruling parliament unconstitutional.

According to Mohamed Nour, spokesman for the Nour Party, the Salafist party "welcomes Morsi's decisions and expresses its gratitude" to both Tantawi and Anan for "the role they played in protecting the revolution."

Political science professor Hassan Nafaa, for his part, described the decisions as "surprising."

He added that, although the decisions appealed to revolutionaries and most political forces, "Morsi should nevertheless have consulted with other political forces when taking such crucial decisions, the same way he should have consulted them when forming the new government."

Nafaa also expressed fears that the Brotherhood would dominate all the country's state authorities.

"Morsi now has the power that SCAF previously had to form the Constituent Assembly [tasked with drafting a new constitution]," he said. "If the current assembly fails to draft the constitution for any reason, there's a possibility that the Constituent Assembly will actually face difficulties carrying out its mandate."

According to Morsi's Sunday Constitutional Declaration, if the assembly tasked with drafting the national charter fails to do so for whatever reason, the president will have the authority to draw up a new assembly – representing the full spectrum of Egyptian society – to draft a new constitution within three months of the new assembly's formation.

While many voiced objections to the SCAF's 18 June constitutional addendum, others – mostly anti-Islamists – welcomed it, seeing it as an obstacle to political domination by the Muslim Brotherhood.

Safwat Hegazi, secretary general of the Revolution's Board of Trustees (a pro-Brotherhood, pro-revolution group that emerged in the wake of last year's uprising), said that Morsi's decisions on Sunday did not imply that the Brotherhood planned to monopolise power, "only that the revolution's demands are on their way to being met."

"It's a way of finally purging the country of the remnants of the former regime and attaining democracy in Egypt," said the Salafist preacher, who had thrown his weight behind Morsi in the latter's presidential campaign.

Abdel-Ghaffar Shukr, spokesman for Egypt's Socialist Popular Alliance, saw the president's decision as the end of the ongoing "power paradox" between the presidency and the military.

"The decision shows that the president is exercising his authorities to their full extent, and that he is not tied down when it comes to decisions concerned with the military," Shukr said in a phone interview with Al-Jazeera.

Several revolutionary figures likewise hailed Morsi's Sunday decisions, yet remained sceptical as to their potential impact.

Mohamed Abul-Ghar, head of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, said that the SCAF had lost its popularity among Egyptians due to its repeated failures during Egypt's post-Mubarak transitional period. "One of its main failures was that it did not produce a constitution first to save the country," he said.

"The problem now is that we don't have a constitution defining the president's powers, and we don't want a president that has all the powers that Mubarak did," Abul-Ghar added.

Ahmed Maher, co-founder of the April 6 Youth Movement, declared on Twitter that he supported the annulment of the constitutional addendum and the retirement of the SCAF's two top men, but added that he still hoped to see them put on trial.

"These decisions demand our support," said Maher. "I believe this was what we asked for."

Prominent activist Asmaa Mahfouz echoed these sentiments, but criticised the "safe exit" the move would likely provide SCAF members.

"Our revolutionaries are more deserving of a safe exit," said Mahfouz, adding that the public should take to the streets to back Morsi's decision, but also to demand the trial of SCAF members.

Prominent television presenter Hamdi Qandil described Morsi's decision as a "civilian coup," which, he said, may have been staged to pre-empt a possible "military coup against Morsi planned for 24 August."

Anti-Brotherhood and anti-revolution figures have recently issued calls on social networking platforms urging the public to stage mass protests on 24 August against Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood.

According to Qandil, now that Morsi holds full executive power, he can finally begin fulfilling his promises, "at the top of which is the reformation of the Constituent Assembly."

He added: "If the SCAF had really protected the revolution, Egyptians would have taken to the streets to demand that they be kept in their jobs."

While the two SCAF leaders will now go into retirement, they will also both be awarded state medals and made advisors to the president.

Meanwhile, hundreds have begun gathering in Cairo's Tahrir Square and the Presidential Palace in the capital's Heliopolis district to voice support for the president's decision following calls by the Muslim Brotherhood to do so.

Morsi began reshuffling officials in sensitive security positions following last week's attack near Egypt's border with the Gaza Strip that left 16 border guards dead at the hands of unknown assailants. The reshuffles included chief of general intelligence, head of the Cairo Security Directorate, head of Egypt's Republican Guards and the North Sinai governor.

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