Egypt crisis: Army's new populist tactics

An Egyptian protester flashes v signs for military aircrafts forming a heart shape in the sky over Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt,, July 5, 2013. Mr Morsi's opponents welcomed the military intervention

The Egyptian army's move to oust President Mohammed Morsi has sharply divided opinion.

Mr Morsi and his supporters considered it a military coup against a legitimately elected president, while the other camp, led by Tamarod (Rebel) - the movement which brought millions onto the streets of Egypt in recent days - and other anti-Morsi people, believe it was a reflection of the people's choice.

The military intervention this time is different from what happened after the fall of Hosni Mubarak in February 2011.

Army's post-Morsi roadmap

  • Constitution to be suspended temporarily and interim president sworn in
  • "Strong and competent" civilian technocratic government to be installed
  • Supreme Court to pass a draft law on parliamentary election and prepare for parliamentary and presidential polls
  • "Charter of honour" to be drawn up and followed by the media
  • Measures taken to empower young people and a national reconciliation committee to be formed

At that time the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (Scaf) was holding power as the legislative and executive authority. Scaf issued constitutional declarations and made mistakes in the eyes of opposition, especially with the ordering of virginity tests on female detainees in military prisons.

It seems that the army learnt its lesson and orchestrated a smart move this time by getting all factions of Egyptian society on board, except the Muslim Brotherhood and the ex-militant Gamaa al-Islamiya group, which is reported to have refused the army's invitation.

Co-operation

This time the military did not behave as the sole power but worked in co-operation with others. It deployed tanks and troops to avoid violent reactions from Mr Morsi's supporters and it took off air some Islamist TV channels, such as the Muslim Brotherhood's Misr 25 and the Salafist al-Hafez, to avoid possible calls for violence.

The army is supervising the "roadmap" that was drawn up by various institutions and groups, such as al-Azhar (Sunni Islam's highest seat of learning), the Coptic Church, the Salafist al-Nour party, opposition leader Mohammed ElBaradei, and representatives from Tamarod.

The army also made contact with several countries, including the United States, the EU and some Arab countries, to reassure them that civilian, not military, rule would lead Egypt through the transitional period.

In addition, the army got backing in two key areas in its decision to get rid Mr Morsi, namely the millions of Egyptians in the streets and the police. Some police officers took part in the anti-Morsi protests and this improved their image amongst Egyptians.

Muslim Brotherhood supporters in Cairo (4 July 2013) The army hopes its measures will prevent a violent reaction from Muslim Brotherhood supporters

It is a coup, according to the strict definition of the term. However, it is not in the sense of the army taking over the power.

It is different from the Free Officers coup in 1952 in Egypt - which led to Egypt becoming a republic - because here the army is only supervising the roadmap and the transition, but the main actors are the interim president and the new government, until presidential and parliamentarian elections are held.

The army has boosted its image in the eyes of Egyptians who demonstrated against Mr Morsi and if it had not ousted Morsi after the 48-hour deadline it gave him to resolve the protests, it could have been damaged as an institution.

Mr Morsi escalated the fight with the army and millions of Egyptians without having the support of anyone except his own power base. He did not win the support of the army or the police, which put his position at stake.

The international reaction to this military intervention was cautious. President Barack Obama said he was "deeply concerned".

Egypt's revolution - key events

  • 11 February 2011 - Hosni Mubarak resigns as president after two weeks of massive street protests and violent clashes
  • January 2012 - Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Freedom and Justice Party wins parliamentary elections with almost half of votes
  • June 2012 - Mohammed Morsi becomes Egypt's first freely elected president
  • 22 November 2012 - Mr Morsi issues a controversial decree granting himself extensive powers - after angry protests he eventually rescinds most of it
  • 3 July 2013 - The army suspends the constitution and removes Mr Morsi from power

"I now call on the Egyptian military to move quickly and responsibly to return full authority back to a democratically elected civilian government as soon as possible through an inclusive and transparent process, and to avoid any arbitrary arrests of President Morsi and his supporters," he said.

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said: "We don't support military interventions in democratic systems... This will now move on very quickly."

The West does not want to be seen as supporting a coup, but they will deal with whoever in power because they have interests in Egypt.

In addition, the civilian interim president and a new government will do the job of leading the country in the transitional period, not the military.

The army is the strongest and most stable institution in Egypt. It is seen as the guardian of stability and peace since 1952.

A fragile democracy and weak state apparatus have been the main reason for the army to play this role.

Once democracy is strengthened and strong state apparatus found, the army might play less of a role in the future.

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