Egypt’s president, Mohammad Morsy of the Muslim Brotherhood, has asserted civilian presidential control, or at least the appearance of it, over the Egyptian military. Today he released a surprise statementrevealing he had demanded the resignation of several top generals, including Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi.
Tantawi, as the minister of defence and the head of the Supreme Council of Armed Forces, had been the country’s effective ruler during the transition from Mubarak. He was seen by many as holding more real power than the President himself. The statement also named Mahmoud Mekki, a former senior judge, as vice president (leaving Morsy’s promise to include a female and a Christian among a group of co-vice presidents unfulfilled).
A constitutional amendment annexing presidential powers, issued by the military as the president was being elected, will be revoked. This also reverts powers previously held by the parliament (which the Supreme Constitutional Court dissolved on an electoral technicality). Morsy has, it seems, vested his presidency with both full executive powers and the legislative responsibilities that SCAF had assumed from the parliament after Mubarak’s fall.
Perhaps most important of these is responsibility for guiding the drafting process of the new constitution. Should the constituent assembly named for the task by parliament be unable to complete the document, a new assembly shall be selected not by SCAF or by parliament (the status of which remains ambiguous) but by Morsy himself…
The ongoing revolution in Egypt has taken a dramatic turn, with protesters successfully resisting an assault by the army on Tahrir Square.
Yesterday (Friday the 8th of April) one of the largest protests in Egypy since the ouster of Mubarak took place. The protest itself represented an important break with previous mass demonstrations, in that Egypt’s armed forces, and in particular Field Marshal Tantawi – the head of the council, were the focus of much of the anger displayed. There were even, among the protesters, some rebel army officers, who spoke out about corruption in the armed forces and called for an end to the rule of the Supreme Military Council, who have been in charge of the country since Mubarak’s resignation.
As has happened often since the army assumed power, they waited till late at night, blocked off all entrances to Tahrir Square, then attacked the crowd with Tazers and Batons, arresting many, including many of the defected soldiers. In a first there was also extensive use of live ammunition, mostly it was fired above the heads of the crowds, but reports of injuries and even fatalities have been circulating. So far the Egyptian ministry of health has confirmed one dead. Reuters has reported two. There may be more. I was told today by a protester that he had seen the body of one person killed moved from the scene of the crime (outside the Tahrir KFC).
This time, however, the army didn’t manage to disperse the protest. Sometime around dawn, after fighting running battles around downtown Cairo through the night, the protesters retook the square, driving the soldiers out, trashing and burning army vehicles, then using them, along with the barbed wire and movable barriers abandoned by the army to build barracades and cordon off the square. They then began putting up tents for the first time since their camp was destroyed on the 9th of March.
While those in the activist community have long been critical of the army, which is closely tied to the formerly ruling National Democratic Party, to America and to Egypt’s business elite, many in the Egyptian population have had a deep faith in them. This faith has been eroded however by the army’s repeated attacks on demonstrations, its arrests torture and prosecution through military tribunals of protesters, and in especially its repulsive subjection of female protesters to “virginity tests”. Not many, however, thought that there would be such a direct confrontation between the armed forces and the protesters so soon. Even fewer would have imagined the people would win. Again the Egyptian revolution has surprised me at least with its depth and strength.
After hearing that the square had been retaken I headed down and shot these images. The video is much clearer if you watch it on youtube in HD.