Egypt's Morsi, opposition both defy army’s coup threat

Egypt's Morsi, opposition both defy army’s coup threat

Egypts Morsi, opposition both defy army’s coup threat

An opponent of Egypt’s President Morsi sleeps in a tent next to a wall graffiti in Arabic which reads ‘who assigned you did not die,’ as others protest outside the presidential palace in Cairo. President Morsi meets with army chief Gen al-Sisi and PM Qandil to discuss the political crisis. AP photo

Egypt’s under pressure President Mohamed Morsi and the opposition have both defied the army’s recent ultimatum, underlining the importance of a political solution instead of a military one.

In a statement issued overnight, the presidency said the president of the republic had not been consulted about the statement and insisted that it would continue on its own path towards national reconciliation. The army declaration had not been cleared by the presidency and could cause confusion, it said.

An army statement, read out on television July 1, had given Morsi 48 hours to comply with its call, after millions of people took to the streets nationwide to demand he step down. “If the demands of the people are not met in this period ... [the armed forces] will announce a future roadmap and measures to oversee its implementation,” it said.

The presidency also denounced any declaration that would “deepen division” and “threaten social peace.” The president was consulting “with all national forces to secure the path of democratic change and the protection of the popular will,” it added.

‘Defend constitutional legitimacy’

Morsi’s supporters, who have also taken to the streets to defend his legitimacy, say any attempt to remove the democratically elected president from power is no less than a coup. The Brotherhood’s political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party, called on supporters to stage mass counter-demonstrations to “defend constitutional legitimacy and express their refusal of any coup,” raising fears of violence.

The opposition parties also said they did not support a military coup. “We do not support a military coup,” the main opposition coalition the National Salvation Front (NSF) said in a statement.

“The NSF has been committed, since its formation on Nov. 22, 2012, to building a civil, modern and democratic state that allows the participation of all political trends, including political Islam. We trust the army’s declaration, reflected in their statement, that they don’t want to get involved in politics, or play a political role,” it said.

The army quickly issued a denial there was any attempt to stage a “coup,” saying that army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s statement was merely aimed at “pushing all political sides to quickly find a solution to the current crisis.”

Phone diplomacy with US

Morsi spoke to U.S. President Barack Obama by phone on July 1, the presidency said in a separate statement, stressing that Egypt was moving forward with a peaceful democratic transition based on the law and constitution. The White House said Obama encouraged him to respond to the protests and “underscored that the current crisis could only be resolved through a political process.”

Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke to Sisi, his Egyptian counterpart, on July 1. It is unclear how far the military has informed, or coordinated with, the U.S. The U.N. human rights office also called on Morsi to listen to the demands of the Egyptian people and engage in a “serious national dialogue” to defuse the political crisis.

Newspapers across the political spectrum saw the military ultimatum as a turning point. “Last 48 hours of Muslim Brotherhood rule,” the opposition daily El Watan declared.

“Egypt awaits the army,” said the state-owned El Akhbar. As the country’s political uncertainty grew, Morsi was hit with a spate of resignations, including by his foreign minister Mohammed Kamel Amr and the ministers of tourism, environment, investment and legal affairs.

Presidential spokesman Ehab Fahmy and Cabinet spokesman Alaa al-Hadidi also resigned, officials and the media reported. Adding to Morsi’s woes, an Egyptian court ordered the reinstatement of Abdel Meguid Mahmud, the public prosecutor who he had sacked in November.

Senior Brotherhood politician Mohamed El-Beltagy said the return of the Mubarak-era prosecutor was part of a creeping coup and he expected the High Committee for Elections to meet within hours to consider annulling the 2012 presidential election. “We are therefore facing a coup against the entire revolution and not just the legitimacy of the elections and the constitution,” Beltagy said on the FJP’s Facebook page.

Morsi’s military adviser, U.S.-trained former chief-of-staff General Sami Enan, also resigned.

“The Egyptian people have spoken and as a result everyone must listen and implement, especially since this unprecedented [protest] was accompanied by the fall of martyrs, which is unacceptable because Egyptian blood is valued highly and must be preserved,” Enan told al-Arabiya television.