Dr. Mohamed Morsi, the president of Egypt, seating alongside top Egyptian military officials, Field Marshal Tantawi on his right and Chief Gen. Sami Enan. The two political forces are adjusting to the outcome of the national elections., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Egypt President Mursi Removes Military Aides in ’Gutsy’ Shake-Up
By Tarek El-Tablawy and Dahlia Kholaif on August 12, 2012
Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi ordered the retirement of the country’s two top military officers amid a power struggle between the leader and the army.
The retirement of Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, Egypt’s defense minister, was part of a reshuffle of the top tier of the armed forces, and effectively sidelined the man who had headed the military council that ruled after the ouster of Hosni Mubarak.
Lieutenant General Sami Enan was also ordered from office. Both men were named as advisers to Mursi.
In addition to the military shake-up, Mursi canceled constitutional changes issued by the military before his inauguration that had stripped his office of some of its authority.
The decision is an “incredible move, a very gutsy move,” Shadi Hamid, director of research at Brookings Doha Center, said by telephone yesterday. “The best way to understand this is as another chapter in the long struggle between Mursi and the Brotherhood and the deep state.”
Mursi said during a religious ceremony that aired yesterday on Al-Jazeera television that his decisions weren’t meant to “marginalize anybody,” rather they were intended to open “new horizons to new bloods and new wills.”
It wasn’t clear whether the military acquiesced in the changes. Reuters quoted General Mohamed el-Assar, a member of the military council, as saying the decision was made after consultation with Tantawi, who had served as Mubarak’s long-time defense chief, and other military leaders.
“My gut is telling me that this is accepted, which would be hugely positive for Egypt as it would mark transition to proper civilian rule,” Emad Mostaque, a U.K-based analyst at Religare Noah, wrote in an e-mailed note yesterday.
Mursi appointed judge Mahmoud Mekki as vice president, in addition to removing the top defense aides, Mursi’s spokesman, Yasser Ali, said in a televised address announcing the changes.
The Associated Press reported that Mekki had publicly spoken against election fraud during Mubarak’s regime.
Crowds gathered in Alexandria and in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, where the uprising that toppled Mubarak began, to support the move, according to Al-Jazeera.
Mursi, who was nominated by the Muslim Brotherhood for the country’s top office, has been locked in a power struggle with the generals who handed over authority to him at the end of June.
Their decision to issue the constitutional change hours after polls closed in the final stage of the presidential election was described as being tantamount to a coup by the Brotherhood and the youth groups that played a key role in the January 2011 uprising against Mubarak.
Tantawi had also ordered the dissolution of the Islamist- dominated parliament, implementing a ruling by the country’s highest court that had critics claiming the military was trying to subvert Egypt’s transition to democracy. Under the decree, the military gave themselves temporary legislative rights.
Along with canceling the June 17 constitutional declaration, Mursi issued a new constitutional addendum of his own giving himself the power to appoint a panel to draft the new constitution if the current 100-member committee fails to fulfill its task, the state-run Middle East News Agency reported, citing Ali. The military had given itself the same right under the decree which he nullified.
“This isn’t game over, this isn’t Mursi won,” Hamid, with Brookings Doha Center, said. “Maybe Mursi is winning this particular period of the struggle, but we’ve learned from Egypt that the situation seems fluid. One day, the military seems on top and other days Mursi seems on top.”
Mursi previously forced the acting head of the country’s general intelligence service into retirement and fired other top officials after an attack by unidentified militants in Sinai that left 16 soldiers dead.
As part of the shake-up, Mursi promoted General Abdelfatah al-Seesi defense minister and Sedki Sobhi to armed forces chief of staff, elevating him to the rank of general, Ali said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Tarek El-Tablawy in Cairo at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Louis Meixler at firstname.lastname@example.org