CAIRO — In a Wednesday address on state television, Egyptian Army General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi said the military, in an effort to listen to the people, has informed Mohamed Morsi that he is no longer Egypt's leader, effectively overthrowing the country's first president elected by democratic process.
Morsi had only served a year as president. With el-Sisi's announcement, the country's constitution was also suspended. Adli Mansour, the Chief Justice of Egypt's Constitutional Court, was named the new president until elections can be held. He will be sworn in on Thursday, Reuters reported.
Morsi — or whoever is running his Twitter account —- has rejected the coup.
No one knew where President Mohammed Morsi was on Wednesday. Rumors spread Morsi was under arrest or bunkered down in a military compound. Protesters gathered outside one officers' club where they believed the ostracized president might be hiding.
The leaders of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood are believed to be under travel ban and house arrest. The nation of more than 80 million waited into the night to learn the fate of Morsi and democracy in Egypt as Egypt's military command huddled in meetings with political leaders and armored personnel carriers blocked roads into neighborhoods, where Brotherhood supporters attended rallies.
Finally, an announcement came by the state news that the army and political leaders had agreed to a roadmap for elections and that the military has suspended the Islamist-backed constitution and called for early elections.
Egypt's democratic hopes now enter a turbulent and dangerous new chapter. Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood's rise represented a chance for political Islamists, long oppressed in Egypt and other Arab states, to become part of mainstream politics. His presidency was in tune with the spirit of the times as popular uprisings had swept away creaking dictatorial regimes in Libya and Tunisia and seen the fortunes of Islamists soar in the Middle East.
But Morsi's reign has now been vehemently rejected by millions of Egyptians, who had taken to the streets and have now welcomed the military to save them. His downfall marks the failure of the Brotherhood to adapt to democratic politics and transcend a history of underground conspiratorial politics.
Where the party went wrong after the ouster of Hosni Mubarak is debatable. Was it when they so quickly cast aside its early promises not to run a candidate for president or to contest more than 30% of the seats in Egypt's parliament, or did it come only after Morsi was elected a year ago? At the time, he was greeted with hope by many secular Egyptians, who wanted a break from the days of Mubarak's authoritarian politics.
In his inaugural speech, Morsi promised to be president for all, but he quickly started to act as an embattled leader who feared all were plotting against him and his party. Morsi and the Brotherhood were convinced their foes from the Mubarak years and beyond were still out to get them: the army, the interior ministry, the state's intelligence service were all plotting. They saw the hand of Mubarak's loyalists at every turn.
Last winter, after the Mubarak-era judiciary dissolved the elected parliament, Morsi rammed through the passage of a new constitution for Egypt. The constitution was reviled by secular Egyptians, seen as repressive and Islamist. In the weeks before its passage, as Morsi tried to claim special emergency powers, violent clashes erupted between Brotherhood supporters and their political opponents. A page had turned and the Muslim Brotherhood was reviled. They were also perceived as autocratic and weak.
When a group of activists, known as Tamarod, or Rebel, started circulating a petition to throw Morsi out of power this spring, it was quickly latched on to by opposition parties, and soon the drive to throw the president out gained momentum. Plans for protests on Sunday in Cairo were drawn up and when millions showed Morsi's days were numbered.
What made the summer's demonstrations different from the days that brought Mubarak down was now the majority of people who came out were those who had stayed away from the demonstrations when Mubarak fell. Called the "Couch Party," many of them were sympathetic to the old regime. When on Monday, the army announced Morsi had two days to come to an agreement with his opponents, or the military would unveil its own plan for the future, no longer did the protests seem benign, but a convergence of the state's security apparatus and those who longed for Mubarak's halcyon days.
On Wednesday in the final hours before the army announced its intentions, Morsi's supporters gathered at a rally in the neighborhood of Nasr City. The front of the rally was guarded by men in helmets, who carried clubs. People warned they were losing faith in democracy and vowed to die protecting their president. They were sure their democracy was being stolen from them, even though they were the ones who had stayed and fought in Tahrir Square against pro-Mubarak gangs in the protests of February 2011.
Brotherhood member Yasser Hag, a doctor and medical professor, warned the consequences were dire. "This is playing with fire," he said. "Islamists will never again believe in democracy and the ballot boxes."
Egyptian Army General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi's statement:
The Associated Press is reporting that U.S. officials have advised non-essential diplomats and embassy families to leave Egypt.
The television station of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood was taken off the air on Wednesday.
Live video from Egypt’s ON TV shows:
Jessica Testa is a national reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Jessica Testa at email@example.com.
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