Morsi defiant on sacking as quarrel likely to mount

Morsi defiant on sacking as quarrel likely to mount

Morsi defiant on sacking as quarrel likely to mount

Thousands of Egyptians gather in Tahrir Square to back Morsi’s sacking move. AP photo

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi defended his move to dismiss top generals and tear up their legal attempt to curb his power, as thousands of his supporters flocked to Tahrir Square to celebrate the change in the military leadership.

“I never intended, through my decisions, to marginalize or be unjust toward anyone […] but my aim was the benefit of this nation and its people,” Morsi said in a speech at Cairo’s al-Azhar Mosque late Aug. 12. “I only wish them the best. I want them to devote themselves to a mission, the protection of the nation,” he said. “I did not intend to embarrass institutions,” he added, saying he had “the interest of the country in mind,” according to Agence France-Presse.

In a move that drew thousands of Islamist supporters to Cairo’s Tahrir Square in celebration, Morsi on Aug. 12 effectively dismissed Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, who ruled Egypt for more than a year after the revolution that toppled former President Hosni Mubarak.

Instead, Morsi announced sweeping changes in the army command and reshaped the nation’s politics. As well as ordering the retirement of Tantawi, the head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) and Mubarak’s defense minister for 20 years, and Chief-of-Staff Sami Anan, 64, Morsi also canceled a decree issued by the military before his election, which had curbed the power of the presidency.

By sweeping aside that decree, Morsi, rather than the army, will hold legislative powers in the absence of Parliament. It will also give the president the power to appoint an assembly to draw up a new constitution if the panel now working on it fails. Morsi also appointed a judge, Mahmoud Mekky, as his vice president. Mekky is a brother of newly appointed Justice Minister Ahmed Mekky, a critic of Mubarak.

Conflicting statements

Despite Morsi’s words, controversial statements about the consent of the military to the decision cast doubts on the move.

General Mohamed el-Assar, who has become deputy defense minister, told Reuters that Morsi’s decision was based on “consultation” with Tantawi and the rest of the military council. However, Mohamed Fouad Gadallah, legal adviser to Morsi, said that Tantawi and Anan had not been aware of Morsi’s decision to remove them, according to Egypt Independent.

“Morsi is capable of taking any decision, and there had been no deals between the president and the SCAF,” Gadallah said. Egyptian television cited a military source as denying any negative response among members of the armed forces to Morsi’s latest move.

Mohammed Aboul-Ghar, a founder of the new Egyptian Social Democratic Party, a secular group critical of the military and Morsi, said the power struggle has now been settled in Morsi’s favor. “The military council was increasingly weakened because of its decisions” and its failure to secure a democratic transition, he said.