Egypt military ousts Morsi

_68537862_68537857Egypt’s military has deposed the country’s first democratically elected President, Mohammed Morsi. It says an interim government will be put in place and the constitution suspended.

What has happened?

The general commander of the armed forces, Gen Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, declared in a televised address that the constitution had been suspended and the head of the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) would assume presidential powers, effectively overthrowing President Mohammed Morsi.

Chief Justice Adli Mansour would oversee an interim period with a technocratic government until presidential and parliamentary elections, Gen Sisi said late on Wednesday.

The country’s highest Islamic authority, the Grand Sheikh of al-Azhar, and the head of the Coptic Church, as well as leading opposition figure Mohammed ElBaradei all spoke after the general, giving their approval.

Earlier troops backed by armoured vehicles secured key sites in the capital, Cairo, as hundreds of thousands of opposition protesters and Mr Morsi’s Islamic supporters took to the streets.

What are the roots of the unrest?

Opposition to Mr Morsi has been building since November 2012, when he issued an interim constitutional declaration granting himself far-reaching powers in an effort to ensure the constituent assembly could finish drafting a new constitution.

He agreed to limit the scope of the declaration after days of protests, but there was further outrage at the end of November when the constituent assembly approved a rushed version of the constitution – despite a boycott by liberals, secularists and the Coptic Church.

Amid mounting protests, President Morsi issued a decree authorising the armed forces to protect national institutions and polling places until a referendum on the draft constitution was held on 15 December 2012, which critics said amounted to a form of martial law.

The army returned to barracks after the charter was approved, but within weeks it was forced to deploy in cities along the Suez Canal to halt clashes between opponents and supporters of Mr Morsi which left more than 50 people dead. On 29 January 2013, Gen Sisi warned that the political crisis might “lead to a collapse of the state”.

What triggered the latest protests?

On 30 June 2013 millions took to the streets to mark the first anniversary of Mr Morsi’s inauguration, in a protest organised by the grassroots Tamarod (Rebel) movement.

The protests prompted the military to warn President Morsi on 1 July that it would intervene and impose its own “roadmap” if he did not satisfy the public’s demands within 48 hours and end the political crisis.

As the deadline approached, Mr Morsi insisted that he was Egypt’s legitimate leader. He warned that any effort to remove him by force could plunge the country into chaos.

Why did the military act now?

Following a meeting with political, religious and youth leaders on 3 July, Gen Sisi said the Egyptian people had been “calling for help” and that the military “could not stay silent”.

“Those in the meeting agreed on a roadmap for the future that includes initial steps to achieve the building of a strong Egyptian society that is cohesive and does not exclude anyone and ends the state of tension and division,” the general announced.

Seeking to avoid any destabilising backlash from Mr Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood and his Islamist allies, Gen Sisi warned that the military and police would deal “decisively” with violence.

What does the roadmap say?

Gen Sisi said the much-criticised 2012 constitution had been “temporarily suspended” and that a panel of experts and representatives of all political movements would consider amendments. He did not say whether a referendum would be held to ratify any changes.

The head of the Supreme Constitutional Court, Judge Adli Mansour, is taking charge during a “transitional period until a new president is elected” and would have the power to issue constitutional declarations, the general said. A technocratic government is to be formed and have full powers to manage the transition.

The general did not define the length of the transitional period or what role the military would play, if any. He also promised “not to exclude anyone or any movement” and called for measures to “empower youths and integrate them in state institutions”.

What has happened to Mohammed Morsi?

The ousted president and his team are in custody. Travel bans have been imposed on senior figures from his Muslim Brotherhood, including the General Guide Mohammed Badie and his powerful deputy, Khairat al-Shater.

A statement on the presidency’s Twitter account quoted Mr Morsi as saying the military’s announcement was “rejected by all free men who struggled for a civil democratic Egypt”.

He urged “civilians and members of the military to uphold the law and the constitution not to accept a coup which turns Egypt backwards”. Mr Morsi also said everyone should remain peaceful and avoid “shedding blood”. BBC

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