Arabic media review

Egypt, in the throes of a military coup

Will Egypt morph into Algeria, where the army stepped in to prevent Islamist rule?

Elhanan Miller is the former Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

Army troops in front of the presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, July 2 , 2013 (photo credit: AP/Ahmed Gomaa)
Army troops in front of the presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, July 2 , 2013 (photo credit: AP/Ahmed Gomaa)

Hours before the expiration of an ultimatum presented to Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi by the military, Arab media presents the army’s plan for Egypt in case Morsi does not comply.

“Egypt heads into a new transitional period and the fate of the Brotherhood is on the line,” reads the headline in the London-based daily Al-Hayat, featuring an aerial photo of masses of demonstrators in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. The paper reports that the Muslim Brotherhood has apparently rejected the army’s ultimatum, as the military outlined its plan for a “transitional period” that includes suspending the drafting of a new constitution, dispersing the upper house of parliament, and appointing a transitional council to govern the country.

But even before the ultimatum has lapsed, Egyptian establishment daily Al-Ahram seems to have been overrun by the military, reporting based on nameless sources that by 4:30 p.m. Egypt time, one of two things will happen: Morsi will have tendered his resignation or he will be dismissed from office under the “map for the future” drawn out by the military.

According to the daily, a number of Muslim Brotherhood leaders were placed under house arrest, Brotherhood funds were “put under surveillance” and “all active forces in the Muslim Brotherhood were put under control.”

“Egypt will return within hours,” reads the headline of independent daily Al-Masry Al-Youm, leaving no room for doubt as to the agenda of its editors. According to the paper, the Muslim Brotherhood leadership has already decided to reject the army’s ultimatum, dubbing it “a military coup.”

The Saudi-owned daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat reports that the army’s warning has caused the Egyptian stock market to rise, strengthening investors’ confidence in a transition of power. The stock market has marked its highest level in a month “despite the political disturbances in the country,” the report says.

“The Brotherhood rejected the map and the Algerian scenario is not out of the question,” writes Al-Quds Al-Arabi editor Abdel Bari Atwan in an op-ed Wednesday.

Citing a statement by Morsi whereby a military coup will come to pass only over his dead body, Atwan writes that “this is, in every detail, like the Algerian scenario, which lasted 10 years and brought about the death of some 200,000 people. The military establishment left its barracks and thwarted the results of a fair election process that indicated the victory of the Islamic Salvation Front. Both the army and the Islamists took up arms and the result was catastrophic,” writes Atwan.

“The comparison between Egypt and Algeria may not be appropriate, as every country has its particularities and and every nation has its special genes and circumstances… but the common denominator is a coup against the results of the ballot box.”  

Meanwhile, A-Sharq Al-Awsat columnist Abdul Rahman Rashed doubts that Egypt will be ruled by a general in uniform, as was the case in Pakistan. Even previous Egyptian presidents who rose up through the army ranks, such as Gamal Abdel Nasser, Anwar Sadat and Mubarak, “went civilian” upon taking office.

“So why did the Brotherhood misread the army’s capabilities? They thought they had neutralized it when isolating the two most powerful men: Field Marshal [Mohamed Hussein] Tantawi and Lieutenant General Sami Anan. They thought they had reached an understanding [with the army] by agreeing not to intervene in the army’s budget and its authorities.”

“Instead of dealing with the presidency as a new experience for Egyptians, the Brotherhood did what the previous Egyptian presidencies did by taking over the centers of power… This startled the political parties and caused the military men to fear that blood may flow in the streets.”

One Egyptian columnist acknowledged on Wednesday that the army’s intervention was anti-democratic, but said it fell short of a full-fledged military coup.

“Question: Does the armed forces’ statement not represent the military’s return to the political scene, reducing its professional fighting role? The security answer: yes. But its return is not revolutionary. It is unlikely that [the army] will be biased in favor of one political element at the expense of another … [the army] dealt with the presidency as a body responsible for crisis [management] and not as the supreme commander of the armed forces.” 

Follow Elhanan Miller on Facebook and Twitter.

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