Cairo: The Egyptian press on Monday headlined President Mohammad Mursi’s move to retire his powerful defence minister as ‘revolutionary’, with some saying it was aimed at ending the political power of the military.
The state-run Al Akhbar newspaper said the dismissal of Field Marshal Hussain Tantawi, who headed the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), as well as other members of the military hierarchy, was a ‘revolutionary decision’.
‘The Brothers officially in power’, declared the independent daily Al Watan, referring to the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist group which backs Mursi and through whose ranks he rose before his election triumph.
The effective sacking of Tantawi, who ruled Egypt for more than a year after the revolution that toppled former president Hosni Mubarak in February 2011, drew thousands of Islamist supporters to Cairo’s Tahrir Square in celebration on Sunday night.
Mursi also scrapped a key constitutional document which gave the military legislative powers and other prerogatives, his spokesman Yasser Ali said. ‘Mursi grabs all powers’, trumpeted Al Masri Al Yom, another independent daily.
But Elaosboa, a weekly journal linked to the SCAF, denounced what it described as the “Brotherhood’s dictatorship”. The independent Al Shuruq, meanwhile, ran the headline ‘Mursi ends the SCAF’s power’. It said the constitutional measures announced by the Islamist president, particularly his move to assume legislative power in addition to the executive power he already holds, granted him “the prerogatives of Mubarak.”
Some analysts say the absence of a strong reaction from the military leadership since Mursi moved on Sunday to wrest key constitutional and legislative powers from the military suggests it has acquiesced.
One Cairo-based analyst says the decision by Mursi is positive because it could lead to greater political stability in the short term. He voices surprise at a relatively tepid stock market reaction on Monday. “Maybe the military’s presence on the scene had some people at ease that (Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood) weren’t actually in control,” he says. “So now they’re scared that Mursi apparently does have some leverage.” Thousands of Islamist supporters celebrated the announcement Sunday night in Cairo’s Tahrir square, which had played home to the protests that ousted Mubarak.
“The people support the president’s decision,” the crowd chanted. Others mocked Tantawi’s departure, presented officially as a retirement.
“Marshal, tell the truth, did Mursi fire you?” they said. Given the circumstances, this is the right time to make changes in the military institution,” said Mourad Ali, a senior official with the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, which fielded Mursi in a May-June presidential election. “He is a strong president, and he is exercising his authority,” Ali said.