'Egypt's Moment of Truth Has Arrived'
President Mohammed Morsi has made the bold and surprising move to disempower the Egyptian military, but many questions still remain about the country's democratic future. German commentators on Tuesday praise his political finesse but worry Morsi may be paving the way for an Islamist state.
Freshly inaugurated Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi surprised his countrymen and the world on Sunday with a daring move to take back power from the strong grip of the military.
In what has been widely seen as a well-timed, politically clever move, Morsi forced seven top-level officers into retirement, including Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi. The head of the old-guard military leadership, Tantawi effectively took charge of Egypt via the powerful military council following the fall of former dictator Hosni Mubarak last year. Then, just before Morsi, the country's first democratically elected president, took office on June 30, the military had most of his presidential powers removed.
But on Sunday Morsi's spokesman said that this constitutional declaration had been scrapped. The country now awaits the creation of a new constitution that will be approved via referendum, after which a new parliament will be elected.
Tantawi and his number two, Gen. Sami Anan, are set to be kept on as advisers in Morsi's government, and so far the military has not rebelled against the president's power play, which involved hiring younger officers as replacements. There was no "negative reaction" within the military, according to an anonymous official quoted by the official news agency on Sunday.
"I did not mean to send a negative message about anyone, but my aim was the benefit of this nation," Morsi said in a speech on Sunday. His spokesperson also said his decision aimed to "pump new blood into the military establishment in the interests of developing a new, modern state."
Celebration in Cairo
Morsi and his fellow Islamists from the Muslim Brotherhood were not expected to act so quickly in removing the military from power, but the president appears to have taken advantage of a moment of weakness. The military has been embarrassed by its failure to thwart an attack by militants at the Sinai border that killed some 16 Egyptian guards, and has since launched a large deployment in the area.
Thousands of Morsi's supporters reportedly gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square to celebrate his success. But on the international level, there is some concern that he could use his new power to create an Islamist state. (..)