Egypt’s President, the Muslim Brotherhood-backed Mohammed Morsi, sacked Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi and set in motion a series of other orders expanding the power of the Presidency and curbing the power of the military.
This is basically the resumption of a battle for power that has consumed Egypt since the revolution, when Hosni Mubarak was forced to step down. Power would either get placed, for the immediate term, in the hands of the military or the hands of the hands of an elected government. In both Parliamentary and Presidential elections, voters chose the favored candidates of the Muslim Brotherhood. When Morsi won a Presidential runoff, the military attempted to weaken his power by curtailing some Presidential authorities through constitutional declarations. Morsi reversed those yesterday, in addition to letting go Tantawi and chief of staff to the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF), Sami Anan. Both of them have been reappointed as “advisors” to Morsi. And there are more dramatic actions likely to follow:
“This sets up an inevitable showdown with the supreme constitutional court as the court is likely to attempt to overturn Morsi’s cancelling of the supplemental constitutional declaration. It seems this move will require the sacking of the court if it is to stand,” said Michael Hanna, a fellow at the Century Foundation, a US thinktank [...]
Morsi’s move on Sunday marks the latest blow in a tussle between the Muslim Brotherhood and the military over control of post-transitional Egypt. The decision to remove Tantawi and Anan was taken in consultation with Scaf, including Tantawi, the new deputy minister of defence, Mohamed el-Assar, told Reuters.
Replacing Tantawi is the head of military intelligence, Abdel-Fatah el-Sissi – one of the generals who defended the use of “virginity tests” against female protesters in March 2011 – with El-Assar as his deputy. The new chief of staff is General Sidqi Sobhi Sayed. The appointments are all members of Scaf.
Tantawi and Anan got medals for their service. Both of them could have gotten indictments for crimes against the state. In several incidents, the military put down further rebellions by protesters with deadly violence. But they are likely to avoid prosecution.
Clearly this is a move to consolidate power on the part of Morsi. The revolutionaries who drove out Mubarak are likely to be at once happy about the end of the reign of Tantawi and upset by the centralization of power in Morsi’s hands. This has more of the earmarks of a coup against the generals than anything else.
Morsi has more popular legitimacy than Tantawi, but his actions over the next year, when a constitution and a Parliament get put into place, will go further to tell the story of Egypt after the revolution.