Tahrir Square’s military coup

Wendell Steavenson writes: The crowds on the street in Egypt over the past days have been overwhelming — they have numbered in the millions. Waving flags and tooting whistles, trumpeting vuvuzelas, drumming and shouting and chanting and honking and singing — Tahrir reached such a noisy level of jubilation that people were joking, “Did Egypt win the World Cup?” Walking among them, dodging fireworks, it felt upside down: a popular protest to oust President Mohammed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood leader who was democratically elected, in which, since Monday, the military has taken the side of the protesters. From one perspective, what is happening in Egypt represents an extraordinary repudiation of political Islam. From another, it is an outright military coup — a repudiation of the process of politics itself. Whatever the air of joyousness, dozens of people have died across the country. The danger did not dissipate with the announcement by the military, on Wednesday night, that Morsi was not President any longer and that the Constitution had been suspended.

The crowd in Tahrir has been varied: families, including women; people with prayer calluses and Afros, some wearing plastic sandals and others Gucci sunglasses; farmers and accountants. But there’s no doubt that there are many from the middle-class “couch party”: people who were more or less O.K. with Mubarak, who tend to trust the Army, and who had not been out to protest before. Police were hoisted onto shoulders. Overhead, military helicopters dropped flags for the cheering masses. On TV — the military had taken control of state media — aerial footage of the immense throngs played on a loop to a soundtrack of martial victory music.

On Monday, Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi, the Head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, issued an ultimatum: the two sides, government and opposition, had forty-eight hours to come up with a compromise plan or else the military would step in with its own “roadmap.” The crowds on the street went wild, taking it as a sign that they had already won. But this was also very clearly a coup. (Twitter captured the national sense of humor — only Egyptians could announce a coup forty-eight hours in advance!) As much as the generals say they are honoring the will of the people, they engineered a showdown, and got one. The Muslim Brotherhood’s supporters, if outnumbered, were also gathering in the streets. Among the anti-Morsi crowds that kept coming, to fill practically every square and intersection in the country, people seemed to think that the Army was not like it had been before, that it was not the Army of Hosni Mubarak and military trials. Sisi would not “sit on the chair” — that is, take the throne.

Morsi addressed the nation at 11:30 P.M. on Tuesday. He spoke with passion, sometimes with anger, and he was defiant. He used the word “legitimacy” so many times that it began to sound like a fist thumping on the table. He reiterated that he was democratically elected — and that was that. It was the feloul, he said, the remnants of the old régime and the deep state, who were taking advantage of the protests for their own schemes. He complained that the bad economy — a major complaint against him — was the fault of the previous government. He might have been right about all of that. But he did not directly address the public’s grievances, other than with a brief aside about a possible reconciliation committee or amendments to the Constitution and getting the youth involved. None of that was new: the opposition — itself fractious and divided — has thrown up its hands at these kind of pluralistic assurances. He did not mention the protests. It was as if he was living in a parallel universe, shut in a room where his own arguments bounced off the walls and echoed back to him. [Continue reading…]

Video, apparently showing Morsi’s arrest yesterday — this being the nature of a coup: those in high office get arrested for being in high office and then some bogus ‘crimes’ get discovered. Morsi is now being accused of having ‘insulted’ the judiciary:

Reuters reports: Egyptian judicial authorities opened an investigation on Thursday into accusations that deposed President Mohamed Mursi and 15 other Islamists had insulted the judiciary, investigating judge Tharwat Hammad said, imposing a travel ban on all of them.

It was second formal order banning Mursi from leaving the country since the military removed the Muslim Brotherhood politician from power on Wednesday.

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