Reem Leila reports on the reaction of the president and his government to the 30 June protests
Former president Hosni Mubarak thought the army would support him. A year after he was inaugurated, Mubarak’s elected successor Mohamed Morsi found himself harbouring the same beliefs. But the Armed Forces issued a “last-chance” warning on 1 July to all political parties along with President Morsi, providing them 48 hours to meet the demands of millions of protesters seeking the ouster of the Islamist leader or the generals will intervene and impose their own plans for the country.
One year after Morsi — Egypt’s first elected president — came to power, his position is as precarious as was Mubarak’s shortly before he was toppled, if not worse. In reply to the army’s statement, the presidency issued a statement after midnight stating that a “modern democratic state was one of the main achievements of the anti-Mubarak revolution… with all its force, Egypt will not allow itself to be taken backward.” According to the statement, Morsi is still reviewing the military’s statement, adding some parts of it “could cause disturbances in the complicated national scene.”
The presidential office announced on Sunday that it will hold a press conference at Al-Qubba presidential palace at 9pm on Monday evening to discuss current political developments. Immediately before the meeting, the press was told that the meeting was postponed to the following day under the claim that the presidency’s official spokesmen did not want to talk to the press.
Some 10 ministers resigned from their post, among them Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr, Tourism Minister Hisham Zaazou, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Hatem Bagato, and ministers of environment and communication respectively Khaled Abdel-Aal and Atef Helmi, along with 24 members of the Shura Council who submitted their resignations protesting at the president’s failure to respond to nationwide demonstrations against his rule. All of Morsi’s presidential advisers have also resigned their post.
Abdel-Meguid Mahmoud who was the former prosecutor-general has returned to his post following a court ruling issued Tuesday. He replaces Talaat Abdallah who was appointed by Morsi.
Since the beginning of the 30 June demonstrations, President Morsi met Prime Minister Hisham Kandil, Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim and Defence Minister Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi to discuss plans to safeguard protests, as well as the country’s strategic installations. In his meeting with Al-Sisi, Morsi discussed the ministry’s plan to secure vital and strategic state facilities, protect people and secure the borders.
Morsi had left Al-Ittihadiya palace, the traditional seat of the president, after it was surrounded by protesters even before 30 June. A day prior to the demonstrations he had conducted several meetings at Al-Qubba palace, the birthplace of Farouk, the last king of Egypt. Morsi claimed that private media channels had exaggerated the power of his opponents, and blamed the week’s violence on officials loyal to Mubarak.
According to official spokesman Omar Amer, those at the meeting discussed domestic political developments, affirmed the importance of preserving the peacefulness of expression, rejected all sorts of violence, and called on all parties to denounce and prevent acts of violence. During the meeting “officials said the country’s concerned institutions will be responsible for protecting citizens as well as private and public properties; they will secure the protests expected within a few days,” said Amer.
They also agreed on the importance of moving forward along the path of democratic transition by holding parliamentary elections within the next few months. “We will call on all political groups to prepare for elections that represent an important building block in Egyptian democracy,” Amer noted.
The spokesman also denied allegations of a possible cabinet reshuffle, responding to several reports speculating that Morsi would remove Prime Minister Kandil. On Tuesday morning Amer and Fahmi Omar the other official spokesman resigned, along with Kandil’s spokesman.
On 29 June Morsi met with a number of representatives of Islamist powers and parties to discuss the latest developments in the country. On the president’s Facebook account, he stressed the importance of protests being held peacefully, adding that there were no compromises in applying the law equally to everyone.
Morsi said in an interview with The Guardian that the media had focussed on “small situations of violence and magnified them as if the whole country is living in violence”. He dismissed the organic nature of the opposition to his rule, and maintained that the fighting had been coordinated by “remnants of the old regime” who had hired thugs to attack his Muslim Brotherhood supporters. “They have money, and they got this money from corruption. They used this corrupt money to pull back the regime, and pull back the old regime into power. They pay this corrupt money to thugs, and then violence takes place.”
Morsi rejected opposition calls for early presidential elections and said he would not tolerate any deviation from constitutional order. He said his early resignation would undermine the legitimacy of his successors, creating a state of endless chaos. Morsi insisted there will be “no second revolution”. His rejection of calls for early elections was a pointed reminder of Mubarak’s last words before being toppled: “either me or chaos”.
The president’s assistant for political affairs Pakinam Al-Sharkawi said the president “has provided a balance sheet for his first year in office, which is a democratic tradition reflecting the values of transparency and accountability upheld by the regime of the 25 January Revolution.”