Egypt on Brink as Morsi Stares Down Dual Ultimatums
Second day of anti-government protests call for immediate ouster of President Mohammed Morsi
UPDATE (11:45 AM EST): Egypt's military tells president and his ruling government that it has 48 hours to address people's demands or it will step in to restore order.
Following an ultimatum by opposition groups that President Mohammed Morsi should step aside by 5 pm Tuesday, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) released an ultimatum of its own in a statement on Monday.
A translation of the statement by the Guardian reads in part:
The armed forces repeat their call for meeting the people's demands and grant 48 hours as a deadline and last chance to shoulder the responsibility of this historical event, for a nation, Egypt, which will not forgive any shortcomings in taking responsibility by any forces.
The armed forces are saying to all sides, if the people's demands are not met within the deadline, the armed forces would be obliged in accordance with their national and historical responsibilities and in respect of the demands of the great Egyptian people, to declare a road map and procedures, the implementation of which will be supervised by the armed forces with the participation of all sincere national parties, including the young men who were and still are igniting the glorious revolution and without ousting anyone.
The office of Morsi's presidency subsequently announced it will hold a televised press conference at 9 pm local time (3 pm EST).
Also on Monday, the 30 June Front—a coalition of pro-democracy forces bent against the Morsi government—released a statement furthering their hopes that people across Egypt would continue their demonstrations against the president with civil disobedience.
"We ask [Egyptians] in all governorates to stop going to work and demonstrate in all squares and in governorate headquarters," read the statement.
And Ahram Online adds:
The front also called on Egyptians to form human chains from Cairo's Tahrir Square to the presidential palace in Cairo's Heliopolis district in the scheduled million man march on Tuesday.
The million man march is dubbed "Persistence March" to demonstrate that the opposition force is determined to continue the goals of the January 2011 revolution – bread, freedom and social justice – and remove the Muslim Brotherhood from power.
The 'Rebel' campaign, which is backed by Egypt's main opposition umbrella the National Salvation Front (NSF), announced that if Morsi does not respond to the people's demand by 5pm (Cairo time) on Tuesday, a nationwide civil disobedience will begin.
Al Jazeera's chief political analyst Marwan Bishara explained how the statement by the military will be viewed as undermining Morsi's authority.
"For the army to give the president 48 hours warning, the army are saying who is the boss," Bishara said. "Morsi is no longer the same president as this morning in the eyes of those on the streets."
Saying the announcement puts "huge pressure" on the president, Bishara said that if Morsi does not respond appropriately, "we can expect army intervention".
"That could be taking over the streets or taking over the government. This message is to the president. This undercuts his authority."
Though Morsi's secular opponents and the revolutionary forces still fighting for a truly democratic alternative for Egypt may welcome the pressure placed on the president, it is not clear that the military leaders and the members of the Tamarod movement are truly on the same side.
Mass demonstrations continued in Cairo and across Egypt for the second straight day on Monday as the movement that previously ousted the long-time authoritarian regime of Hosni Mubarak has set its sights on a 'Second Revolution' with a call for the sitting president, the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohammed Morsi, to step aside.
As multiple news agencies are reporting on Monday, the opposition Tamarod movement, which brought millions of Egyptians into the streets on Sunday, has given Morsi until 5pm on Tuesday to resign from office.
Reports indicate that already some of Morsi's cabinet members have resigned as the pressure on them showed no signs of abating and following reports that at least sixteen people were killed and many hundreds injured during the weekend demonstrations where Morsi supporters clashed with the opposition movement.
In a statement put out by Tamarod, its leaders urged "state institutions including the army, the police and the judiciary to clearly side with the popular will as represented by the crowds."
The group declared that time for dialogue with the regime and other "halfway measures" was over.
"There is no alternative other than the peaceful end of power of the Muslim Brotherhood and its representative, Mohammed Morsi," the statement said and gave him until Tuesday night to leave or face escalated civil disobedience and unrest.
Early Monday, the Cairo headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood were stormed and set ablaze. As independent journalist Sharif Abdel Kouddous tweeted:
— Sharif Kouddous (@sharifkouddous) June 30, 2013
And the Associated Press adds:
After clashes raged overnight, protesters managed to breach the compound’s defenses and storm the six-story building early Monday, carting off furniture, files, rugs, blankets, air conditioning units and portraits of Morsi, according to an Associated Press journalist at the scene. One protester emerged with a pistol and handed it over to a policeman outside.
Footage on local TV networks showed smashed windows, blackened walls and smoke billowing out of the fortified villa in the Muqatam district in eastern Cairo. A fire was still raging on one floor hours after the building was stormed. One protester tore down the Muslim Brotherhood sign from the building’s front wall, while another hoisted Egypt’s red, black and white flag out an upper-story window and waved it in the air in triumph.
Some preparing for rallies on Monday spent the night in dozens of tents pitched at Cairo's central Tahrir Square and the palace, positions organisers say they will hold until Morsi resigns.
In fewer numbers, supporters of the Egyptian president came out on Sunday to show their support and defend what they called the president’s "legitimacy".
As anger against Morsi swept the streets, at least six people were killed and more than 600 wounded in clashes between the pro and anti-Morsi groups, the Reuters news agency reported.
As the protests continued, the English language Egypt Independent reports how the Morsi regime was using familiar tactics to control the message by restricting the production of the state-run television:
The information minister has cancelled the People of Egypt (Ahl Masr in Arabic) programme, which is broadcast daily on the state-run Egyptian satellite channel.
Sherif al-Gammal, the show's director, said the minister made his decision after discovering who would be appearing on the programme.
People of Egypt guests included Egyptian Social Democratic Party leader Farid Zahran, Islamic thinker Hassan Kamal and Tamarod ("rebellion") campaigner Maha Abu Bakr.
Free Egyptians Party spokesperson Shehab Wagih, National Salvation Front member Wael Nawwarah and Conscience Front member Mohamed Sharaf were also booked to attend.
Gammal added that the minister has restricted political shows to news bulletins and reports from correspondents only, in attempts to to filter out undesirable content.