President Mohamed Morsy’s decision to retire the army’s top brass and to cancel the constitutional amendment giving the military wide powers is widely applauded by columnists across Egypt. Some fear his motives in reclaiming this power, hoping it will be returned to civilian oversight rather than being used to entrench the Muslim Brotherhood. And while Morsy may have managed to shift the blame onto the military for the recent Sinai attacks, by claiming unfettered power, he is now solely responsible for Egypt’s well-being.
Sincere happiness and justified fears
Al Masry Al Youm
Al-Aswani heralds Morsy’s recent decision to retire the army’s top brass and cancel the constitutional declaration as the end of military rule, claiming that all of those who supported the revolution should welcome such decisions. In his view, the second Egyptian republic can now be established following a transfer of power to elected civilian hands. However, he does point out that the joy of the Egyptian public is tainted by a number of apprehensions, and he goes on to identify these apprehensions.
Foremost among these fears is the fact that Morsy belongs to the Muslim Brotherhood, a mysterious group that falls under no official regulation. Other fears include the President’s decision to claim for himself the power to form a new constitutional assembly, a notion which Al-Aswani views as undemocratic. Another is the preservation of the Ministry of Information, which the writer deems a hallmark of totalitarian regimes.
Al-Aswani is particularly keen to condemn what he perceives to be the President’s attempts to stifle and control print and broadcast media. While praising Morsy’s bold move in removing military heads, he says the question remains whether the President is attempting to reclaim power for the people or steal it for the Muslim Brotherhood. He appeals for decisions proving the former to be made.
A correct decision
Referring to the removal of Field Marshall Tantawi and Lieutenant General Sami Ennan from their posts, Al-Shobki views the change of hands long overdue. He claims that Tantawi’s tenure in his position created a generational gap between the head of the military and the rest of its leadership, adversely affecting the competence of the armed forces, as evidenced by the recent Sinai attacks.
Assessing the retired military leadership’s stint as rulers of Egypt, he criticises the prevalence of conspiracy theories during the transitional period, claiming that grand, all-encompassing conspiracies require a degree of leadership capabilities absent in the Mubarak-era military. He acknowledges mistakes made during the transitional period, but attributes them to minor conspiracies and a lack of political experience; he dismisses the notion that power ambitions were at work behind any of the Egyptian military’s actions.
Al-Shobki makes it clear that in his view, the military’s entanglement in politics has had a highly negative effect on the institution itself and its ability to properly play its designated role. He poses the question of whether Morsy’s decision to remove the heads of the military will be to serve the public good or to facilitate the penetration of state institutions by one specific group, but in either case he welcomes the fact that the military will no longer be mired in politics.
The finishing blow
The President’s decision to retire a myriad of the Egyptian military’s leaders and top officials, headed by the Minister of Defense and the Chief of Staff of the armed forces, is perceived by Ramadan to be the final blow in a high-stake political battle between the military and the Muslim Brotherhood.
He believes that Morsy has managed to effectively remove the Egyptian military as a threat to his rule, while simultaneously placing the blame for the recent Sinai attacks on the military leadership by timing their removal to frame it as a reaction to the attacks.
Ramadan claims that power is finally and fully in the hands of the elected President, who is in possession of legislative and executive authority in addition to having appointed the cabinet he deemed appropriate. The columnist declares it the right of all Egyptians to now demand a better life from the President and to hold him accountable.
He calls on Morsy to work on bettering living conditions and alleviating the burdens of the public, and expresses his hope that the President will choose to serve the Egyptian people rather than what he labeled ‘others’, in a clear reference to the Muslim Brotherhood.
Egypt at the crossroads
The episode of military leadership removals is viewed by Gad as a pre-emptive measure by Morsy and the Muslim Brotherhood in preparation for expected protests on 24 August.
Gad argues that the Brotherhood realised the extent of the threat posed by the 24 August protests, which call for a revolution against the rule of the Brotherhood, and took a series of steps to entrench their authority in advance.
He claims there was a general perception of the Brotherhood’s popularity being on the wane in contrast to that of the military leadership, which was increasingly being viewed as a bastion of secularism and the savior the secularist forces will turn to.
There were murmurs of a planned military coup on 24August, taking advantage of public unrest and anger directed at the Muslim Brotherhood, and this, according to Gad, prompted the group and the President to take steps that included a crackdown on the media and culminated with the removal of military heads.
The writer opines that the events proved that the military leadership’s power was a mere illusion, labeling Field Marshall Hussein Tantawi and Lieutenant General Sami Ennan as “tree leaves that fell and withered.”
The Lamenters of the army’s return to the barracks
Qandil laments what he perceives to be the hypocritical and contradictory stances taken by many following Morsy’s decision to retire and remove the major leaders of the Egyptian armed forces from their posts.
The columnist expresses surprise that many of those who supported the revolution and chanted ‘down with military rule’ are now judging the latest events to be a ‘Muslim Brotherhood coup’ and a defeat for the prospects of the civilian state.
He also disparages contradictory arguments which he alleges have recently surfaced, arguments labeling the latest happenings as a fierce Brotherhood takeover, while simultaneously claiming that a deal was made with the military behind the scenes.
Qandil congratulates the military and the Egyptian people for the removal of the armed forces from the political scene. He blames the generals for dragging the army into politics in the first place, which he suggests has had a negative effect on the institution and was one of the reasons behind the failure to prevent the recent Sinai attacks.
He unequivocally praises the President’s move, and calls on the head of the Egyptian state to take another positive step by freeing political detainees and inmates who were convicted in military trials.