Egyptian military ousts Morsi, suspends constitution
CAIRO — The Egyptian military removed President Mohamed Morsi from power Wednesday and suspended the constitution in moves it said were aimed at resolving the country’s debilitating political crisis.
In a televised address to the nation after a meeting with a group of civilian political and religious leaders, the head of the powerful armed forces, Gen. Abdel Fatah al-Sissi, said the chief of Egypt’s constitutional court “will assume the presidency” on an interim basis until a new presidential election is held. Sissi said the interim president will have the right to declare laws during the transitional period.
The announcement came as huge crowds of pro- and anti-government protesters massed in the streets of Cairo and the army deployed armored vehicles. In the afternoon, a top adviser to embattled Morsi had declared that a military coup was underway and warned that “considerable bloodshed” could ensue.
“Measures announced by the armed forces’ leadership represents a full coup, categorically rejected by all the free men of our nation,” Morsi tweeted from his official Twitter account Wednesday night following Sissi’s statement.
Liberal opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei and the heads of Egypt’s Coptic church and highest Islamic institution, al-Azhar, also spoke Wednesday night, following Sissi.
“This will be the beginning of a new start for the 25th of January, that the Egyptian people have initiated to regain their freedom and dignity,” ElBaradei, who had been selected in recent days by other opposition activists to represent them, said in a short address. He referred to the date in 2011 that the Egyptian revolution against longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak began.
Until its announcement Wednesday night, the Egyptian military had denied that it was staging it a coup. According to the official Middle East News Agency, top commanders were backing Muslim and Christian religious leaders, youth representatives and the head of a liberal opposition alliance in jointly presenting a “roadmap” for a political transition.
Without mentioning Morsi by name in a heavily anticipated eight-minute speech at 9 p.m. Wednesday night, Sissi said the military had responded to the people’s demands in an act of “public service.”
“The armed forces have tried in recent months, both directly and indirectly, to contain the internal situation and to foster national reconciliation between the political powers, including the presidency,” Sissi said. But those efforts had failed, he said. The president, he added, “responded with negativity in the final minutes.”
In a meeting with “religious, political and youth symbols,” the military accepted a “roadmap that will achieve a strong Egyptian society that does not alienate any of its children or strains, and ends this division,” Sissi said.
The announcement sparked cheers and celebration among Morsi opponents packed into Cairo’s Tahrir Square.
But in eastern Cairo, supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, an entrenched Islamist movement that backs Morsi, erupted in angry chants following Sissi’s speech, and stones started flying. The Brotherhood’s two main political channels immediately vanished from the airwaves.