Brotherhood backs Morsi's assertion of power over army


MUSLIM Brotherhood supporters massed in Cairo’s Tahrir Square yesterday to voice their approval of Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi’s drive to assert his rule.

The rally celebrated his victory over key figures in the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which had assumed both presidential and legislative powers after the ousting of president Hosni Mubarak 18 months ago and demonstrated it intended to remain in control.

Mr Morsi began by securing the support of second-level members of the council for his bid to impose non-military rule – for the first time since the king was toppled in 1952 – and to fire or retire senior members of the military and security services.

Second-level officers were, apparently, disturbed by the total preoccupation of council head field marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi and chief-of-staff Sami Annan with a struggle to retain the military’s primacy on the political scene. As a result of this focus on politics, the security situation had deteriorated, prompting the public to call for the increasingly unpopular field marshal and his allies to step down.

At the appointed hour last Sunday, Mr Morsi assumed full presidential powers and declared himself commander-in-chief of the armed forces.

He then proceeded to retire Mr Tantawi, Mr Annan, the air force and navy chiefs, and to elevate his own men to the top jobs. Mr Morsi’s new defence minister Abdel Fatah el-Sisi, is a fundamentalist. With his help, Mr Morsi is expected to shrink the military council from 19 to, perhaps, seven members.

Mr Morsi also appointed brotherhood-affiliated judge Mahmoud Mekki as his vice-president. He is the brother of justice minister Ahmed Mekki, who shares this orientation.

The two are likely to remove judges appointed during the Mubarak era who are seen as hostile to Mr Morsi and the brotherhood. General prosecutor Abdel Maguid Mahmoud, another Mubarak appointee, could also be replaced.

Mr Morsi’s latest moves came on top of his appointment of Hisham Kandil, a fundamentalist, as prime minister and of other fundamentalists in the higher education, youth and information ministries as well in justice.

The country’s new constitution, being drafted by a body dominated by fundamentalists, is said to be nearly ready to be put to a referendum, after which fresh elections are to be held. The brotherhood’s calculation is that the fundamentalists would retain a large degree of control in the new assembly, although they might not win the two-thirds majority they held in the dissolved assembly.

Many Egyptians are concerned about Mr Morsi’s carefully choreographed power grab, since he also has a well-thought-out plan – the Muslim Brotherhood’s renaissance document – for transforming Egypt into an Islamic state rather than the democratic civil state the secular liberal authors of the 2011 uprising sought to establish.