Egypt’s top generals on Monday gave President Mohammed Morsi 48 hours to respond to a wave of mass protests demanding his ouster,declaring that if he did not,then the military leaders themselves would impose their own road map to resolve the political crisis.
Their statement,in the form a communiqué read over state television,plunged the military back to the centre of political life just 10 months after they handed full power to Morsi as Egypts first democratically elected leader.
The communiqué was issued following an increasingly violent weekend of protests by millions of Egyptians angry with Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood backers. It came hours after protesters destroyed the Brotherhoods headquarters in Cairo.
In tone and delivery,the communiqué echoed the announcement the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces issued 28 months ago to oust President Hosni Mubarak and seize full control of the state.
For Morsi and his Islamist allies in the Muslim Brotherhood,however,a military intervention would be an epic defeat. It would deny them the chance to govern Egypt that the Brotherhood had struggled 80 years to finally win,in democratic elections,only to see their prize snatched away after less than a year.
We understand it as a military coup, one adviser to Morsi said. What form that will take remains to be seen.
The militarys ultimatum seemed to leave Morsi few choices: cut short his term as president with a resignation or early elections; share significant power with a political opponent in a role such as prime minister; or attempt to rally his Islamist supporters to fight back for power in the streets.
Morsis adviser said the military should not assume that the Brotherhood would accept its ouster without an all-out battle to defend his democratic victories. The Brotherhood may not take this lying down, the adviser said.
Citing the historic circumstance, the military council said in its statement that if the demands of the people have not been met within 48 hours then the armed forces would be forced by patriotic duty to announce a road map of measures enforced under the militarys supervision for the political factions to settle the crisis.
The Health Ministry said earlier on Monday that 16 people had died in the protests,including eight in a battle outside the Muslim Brotherhood headquarters,most of them from gunshot wounds. All of those killed outside the headquarters were young,including one who was 14 and another who was 19,the ministry said.
The fiercest confrontation seemed to be at the Brotherhood headquarters where members of the organization trapped inside fired bursts of birdshot at the attackers and wounded several of them.