Mohammed Morsi is no longer the president of Egypt, the military announced on Wednesday.
General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the head of Egypt's military, made the announcement standing in front of religious and military leaders. The military will suspend the country's constitution "provisionally."
Until the next presidential election, the chief justice of the Supreme Constitutional Court will have the power of the presidency. Sisi said a national dialogue was rejected by Morsi, which eventually lead to his downfall.
In the aftermath of the speech, fireworks are flying in Cairo's Tahrir Square, and the AP reports that Morsi has been moved to an undisclosed location. The official Twitter account of the Egyptian Presidency is, however, not going down quietly:
Pres. Morsy: Measures announced by Armed Forces leadership represent a full coup categorically rejected by all the free men of our nation— Egyptian Presidency (@EgyPresidency) July 3, 2013
Pres. Morsy: Armed Forces announcement is rejected by all free men who struggled for a civil democratic Egypt.— Egyptian Presidency (@EgyPresidency) July 3, 2013
Pres. Morsy urges civilians and military members to uphold the law & the Constitution not to accept that coup which turns #Egypt backwards— Egyptian Presidency (@EgyPresidency) July 3, 2013
Pres. Morsy urges everyone to adhere to peacefulness and avoid shedding blood of fellow countrymen.— Egyptian Presidency (@EgyPresidency) July 3, 2013
The Wall Street Journal's Matt Bradley reported that a speech from Morsi was broadcast in Rab'a al Adawiya Square, but no one is covering it in the country. In the speech, Morsi asked Egyptians not to fight because "it would really hurt" him "if anyone died." He also said that the revolution has been stolen.
In a taped statement that aired late Wednesday on Al Jazeera, Morsi said that he is still Egypt's legitimate president and that he is open to negotiate.
The deadline that the Egyptian military gave Morsi to solve the political crisis in the country passed Wednesday morning. Egyptian soldiers and tanks took to the streets and surrounded the presidential palace where Morsi supporters have gathered. Before the announcement, a Muslim Brotherhood spokesman warned that the military has taken over.
The political roadmap was organized by the head of Egypt's Coptic Church, opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei and other civilian and military leaders. Earlier Wednesday, Sisi met with ElBaradei and religious leaders to discuss how the country can move forward, AFP reported.
"I hope that this … roadmap, this plan, is a beginning for a new beginning to continue with the May 25th revolution through which the Egyptian people had to spend dearly to achieve what all of us want, social justice for every Egyptian man and woman," ElBaradei said after the military's announcement.
Military and opposition leaders are being extremely careful to avoid the impression that this was a military coup, in part because if it was there are legal implications with the U.S. and foreign aid. Putting ElBaradei out front is an obvious means of doing this.
Reaction from the U.S.
The White House released a statement from President OBama just before 7 p.m. EST. The meeting came after extended meetings between the president and his national security staff. Most notably, the statement does not include the word "coup." Here is the statement in full:
As I have said since the Egyptian Revolution, the United States supports a set of core principles, including opposition to violence, protection of universal human rights, and reform that meets the legitimate aspirations of the people. The United States does not support particular individuals or political parties, but we are committed to the democratic process and respect for the rule of law. Since the current unrest in Egypt began, we have called on all parties to work together to address the legitimate grievances of the Egyptian people, in accordance with the democratic process, and without recourse to violence or the use of force.
The United States is monitoring the very fluid situation in Egypt, and we believe that ultimately the future of Egypt can only be determined by the Egyptian people. Nevertheless, we are deeply concerned by the decision of the Egyptian Armed Forces to remove President Morsy and suspend the Egyptian constitution. 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 Morsy and his supporters. Given today's developments, I have also directed the relevant departments and agencies to review the implications under U.S. law for our assistance to the Government of Egypt.
The United States continues to believe firmly that the best foundation for lasting stability in Egypt is a democratic political order with participation from all sides and all political parties —secular and religious, civilian and military. During this uncertain period, we expect the military to ensure that the rights of all Egyptian men and women are protected, including the right to peaceful assembly, due process, and free and fair trials in civilian courts. Moreover, the goal of any political process should be a government that respects the rights of all people, majority and minority; that institutionalizes the checks and balances upon which democracy depends; and that places the interests of the people above party or faction. The voices of all those who have protested peacefully must be heard – including those who welcomed today's developments, and those who have supported President Morsy. In the interim, I urge all sides to avoid violence and come together to ensure the lasting restoration of Egypt's democracy.
No transition to democracy comes without difficulty, but in the end it must stay true to the will of the people. An honest, capable and representative government is what ordinary Egyptians seek and what they deserve. The longstanding partnership between the United States and Egypt is based on shared interests and values, and we will continue to work with the Egyptian people to ensure that Egypt's transition to democracy succeeds.
Earlier in the day, the U.S. would not confirm whether there had been in a coup in Egypt. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki earlier said officials have been in contact with all factions involved in the political crisis in recent days.
"I'm not going to speak to reports we don't have confirmation on," Psaki said on Wednesday at her daily press briefing. "We're not taking sides in this."
U.S. officials have not called it a "coup," since that would mean the U.S. couldn't legally provide foreign aid to the military. Even former U.S. Ambassador to Egypt Edward Walker awkwardly walked around it. When asked if it was a "coup" on CNN, he said it was instead "a democratic exhibit of popular will."
Psaki also warned Americans not to travel to Egypt for their own safety. The U.S. has also closed its embassy.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., also released a statement on Egypt on Wednesday afternoon:
Egypt's stability is tremendously important for America's national security and for the security of our allies in the Middle East. The Egyptian military has long been a key partner of the United States and a stabilizing force in the region, and is perhaps the only trusted national institution in Egypt today. In the difficult days ahead, it will be important for Egyptian authorities to safeguard the rights, interests, and security of all of Egypt's citizens. For their part, President Morsi must put the interests of Egypt's diverse population ahead of the interests of himself or the Muslim Brotherhood. The Egyptian people have made clear that President Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood government has threatened the pluralistic democracy for which they called two years ago. As President Obama has said, democracy is about more than elections. It is important that Egypt's leaders listen to their people, whose calls for a transparent and pluralistic democratic process should be respected.
What's Happening on the Ground
The AP reported Wednesday afternoon that Egyptian troops were deploying near protest sites, while Reuters said that there were reports that the army had put up barbed wire and barriers around the barracks where Morsi may have been working.
Meanwhile, thousands of demonstrators continue to flood Tahrir Square, the site of the 2011 revolution that toppled then-strongman Hosni Mubarak. Some reports say that the size of the crowds are now larger than two years ago. Here's live video from PBS Newshour from Tahrir:
The Run-Up to the Military's Announcement
Before the military announcement, one of Morsi's national security adviser released a statement on Wednesday morning, reading in part, with our emphasis:
As I write these lines I am fully aware that these may be the last lines I get to post on this page.
For the sake of Egypt and for historical accuracy, let's call what is happening by its real name: Military coup.
Today only one thing matters. In this day and age no military coup can succeed in the face of sizeable popular force without considerable bloodshed. Who among you is ready to shoulder that blame?
Dancing and singing in tahrir bec of local tv report morsi put under house arrest. NO confirmation. pic.twitter.com/gHMQhux3w2— Richard Engel (@RichardEngel) July 3, 2013
Egyptian Pres Morsy urged formation of a "new coalition government" until "parliamentary elections take place within few months"— Security Clearance (@natlsecuritycnn) July 3, 2013
#BREAKING Egypt security forces place travel ban on President Morsi, top Islamists— Agence France-Presse (@AFP) July 3, 2013
Morsi, Shater and Badei are on travel ban lists per intelligence orders according to security officials— Mayy El Sheikh (@Mayy_el_Sheikh) July 3, 2013
Why is This All Happening?
Wael Nawara writes in Al-Monitor:
It is not just about the fuel shortages, power outages, deteriorating economy or soaring prices. Western media rarely, if ever, mention the Muslim Brotherhood's assault on Egyptian identity, culture and way of life as a core cause of protests.
ABC News reports on the effect this may have on oil prices, as oil supplies by 10 million barrels in the last week:
While Egypt is not an oil producer, its control of the Suez Canal makes it a major player in the business of the world's fuel supply. On Tuesday, the price of oil passed $100 a barrel for the first time since September. On Wednesday morning, the price remained above $102 a barrel.
It's an amazing turn-around for a president who was Democratically elected only a year ago. Just last December, Time Magazine featured him on its cover like this:
On Wednesday morning, Morsi's office released the following statement:
The Egyptian Presidency renews its adherence to the roadmap to which all national forces were invited for the sake of comprehensive national reconciliation which would meet the demands of people and accommodate all national, youth and political forces and which would defuse the political tension in Egypt now. The Presidency affirms that overturning constitutional legitimacy threatens democracy by deviating from its right path, and threatens freedom of expression which Egypt enjoyed after the revolution. Legitimacy is the only guarantee for stability and confronting violence, vandalism, and breaking the law. The Presidency's vision includes the formation of a coalition government that would manage the upcoming Parliamentary electoral process, and the formation of an independent committee for constitutional amendments to submit to the upcoming parliament.
The Presidency holds responsible a number of political parties which previously boycotted all calls for dialogue and consensus, the last was this initiative which addresses all demands of the Egyptian street and prevents the nation's sliding into political disputes which any Egyptian does not wish to see in his/her dear homeland. To protect the blood of Egyptians, the Presidency calls on all political and national forces to prioritize national interest above all other interests.
Everyone should be aware of an evident fact: the Egyptian people (both supporters and opponents) expressed themselves by taking to the streets in the past few days. Hundreds of thousands from both sides protested.
One of the mistakes I cannot accept -as the President of all Egyptians- is to side with one party over another, or to present the scene from one side only. To be fair, we need to listen to the voice of people in all squares.
The Egyptian Presidency adopts a clear and safe roadmap based on constitutional legitimacy which Egyptians built together. The roadmap includes the formation of an interim coalition government on the basis of national partnership to manage the rest of this phase until parliamentary elections within few months, or to agree on the person of the Prime Minister by all factions. This is our vision to move forward. Let the Egyptians express their opinion through the ballot box.
The other scenario which some are trying to impose on the Egyptian people is not agreed on by the masses who filled the streets. It would disrupt the institution building process which we started. Whoever thinks that Egypt can go backwards by destroying the legitimacy of the constitution and the revolution and imposing the legitimacy of force on this noble Egyptian nation which tasted freedom or would not pay its blood as a price for protecting it, is mistaken. The Egyptian people will hold on to peacefulness of their revolution.
Let us protect our peacefulness, our nation, and our revolution.
Reaction From the Region
In a bizarre turn, on Wednesday Syria's government called on Morsi to step down.
"[Egypt's] crisis can be overcome if Mohammed Mursi realizes that the overwhelming majority of the Egyptian people reject him and are calling on him to go," Syria's Information Minister told the state news agency.
If that statement sounds familiar, it's probably because if you flip the words "Egypt" and "Egyptian" with "Syria" and "Syrian" and "Mohammed Mursi" with "Bashar al-Assad," it's something that has been said by countless observers about the ongoing crisis in Syria.