The problem for Morsi is that Egypt’s military has managed to maintain legitimacy in the eyes of the people, many of whom would welcome its intervention to move Egypt away from the theocratic Islamist direction the Muslim Brotherhood and its fundamentalist Salafi allies are taking the country. Some protesters chanted, “The army and the people are one hand!” when they heard the military’s announcement.
The military has been careful to emphasize its temporary role, if needed, in facilitating a peaceful path to a more inclusive government. It wants to stay in general favor with the masses by re-assuring those in the opposition who worry about trading an authoritarian Muslim Brotherhood-led regime for another military dictatorship. However, to avoid a backlash from the country’s Muslim Brotherhood supporters who would feel disenfranchised if Morsi were to be forced out of power, the military’s roadmap might consist of some sort of coalition government in which Morsi would still play a role until new elections can be scheduled.
The Muslim Brotherhood is not appearing to back down just yet. “We understand it as a military coup,” one adviser to Mr. Morsi was quoted by theNew York Times as saying, speaking on condition of anonymity. “What form that will take remains to be seen.” The adviser went on to say that the Muslim Brotherhood should not be expected to necessarily “take this lying down.”
For Egypt's Military, There's No Turning Back
The military’s late attempt to paint itself as an impartial broker between the secular and Islamist camps failed to sound convincing, however, especially when juxtaposed with the photo that may become the icon for the next revolution, of air force helicopters hovering over Tahrir Square with Egyptian flags dangling from them.
The sight of the helicopters, with the setting sun in the background, enthused the crowds on the ground who could only glean one thing from the display: the military had thrown down the gauntlet.
Opposition: Morsi's Speech Equivalent To 'Civil War'
Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi vowed to stay in power and defend constitutional legitimacy on Wednesday as generals worked on plans to push the Islamist aside within the day and suspend the constitution.
In a defiant midnight television address responding to military demands that he share power with his opponents or see the army impose its own solution, Morsi warned that any deviation from the democratic order approved in a series of votes last year would lead Egypt down a dangerous path.
He was speaking as vast crowds of protesters rallied in central Cairo and across the nation to demand the Muslim Brotherhood politician's resignation in a third night of mass demonstrations. His supporters also turned out and some were involved in clashes with security forces at Cairo University.
"The price of preserving legitimacy is my life," Morsi said in an impassioned, repetitive, 45-minute ramble. "Legitimacy is the only guarantee to preserve the country."
An opposition spokesman called Morsi's defiance "an open call for civil war". Peaceful protests would go on, he said.
Egypt's opposition alliance said Morsi's refusal on Tuesday to accept a military ultimatum to share power had put the country on course for confrontation and raised the risk of violence.
"This is leading to confrontation, not offering any compromise or listening to people on the streets, and we are very alarmed about escalation of violence," said Khaled Dawoud, spokesman for the National Salvation Front.