Egypt | Protests Threaten Morsi Government
- Egypt Main Page
- Egypt Becomes a Republic
- Tensions Between Egypt and Israel Erupt in the Six-Day War
- Egypt Begins Fighting Islamic Extremists
- Mubarak Resigns Under Intense Pressure from Protesters
- Several Milestones Signal Transition to Democracy
- Protesters Return to Tahrir Square
- Islamists Fare Well in Parliamentary Elections; Political Turmoil Complicates Presidential Vote
- Mubarak Sentenced to Life in Prison
- Protests Threaten Morsi Government
- Morsi Deposed by Military After One Year in Office
- Military Brutally Cracks Down on Protesters
- Voters Approve New Constitution
- Mass Death Sentences Handed Down in Killing of Officer
- Voter Turnout Unexpectedly Low in Presidential Election
- Dangerous Jihadist Group Intensifies Attacks on Troops; Pledges Allegiance to ISIS
- Court Drops Charges Against Mubarak
- Obama Lifts Freeze on Military Aid
- Morsi Receives Sentences of Death and 20 Years in Prison
- Insurgent Attacks Increase
- Egypt Joins in Saudi-Led Fight Against Rebels in Yemen; Prime Minister, Cabinet Resign
Protests Threaten Morsi Government
President Morsi faced his first test in early August 2012, when militants shot and killed 16 Egyptian soldiers at an army checkpoint in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, which borders Israel. Several of the militants then drove into Israel, where their vehicle was destroyed by the Israeli military. Despite increased jihadist activity and warnings about a potential attack in the Sinai, the Egyptian Army was caught unprepared. Morsi ordered an airstrike on the Sinai, which killed about 20 militants. On Aug. 12, Morsi dismissed or "reassigned" several senior generals and the heads of each service branch of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), an influential force in Egypt that has effectively been in control since the fall of Hosni Mubarak and recently been in a power struggle with the new civilian government. Defense minister Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, a power broker in Egypt, was among the leaders Morsi stripped of his position. Morsi also voided a constitutional declaration imposed by the military that limited the role of the president, and implemented a new order that vastly expanded his power and that of the legislature. The bold move sent a clear message that the civilian government had taken back control of the country.
The attack in the Sinai highlighted the importance—and fragility—of the relationship between Israel and Egypt in dealing with the explosive nature of the region.
Protests broke out at the U.S. embassy in Cairo in September over the release of a YouTube film, Innocence of Muslims, which insulted the Prophet Muhammad and criticized Islam. Demonstrators stormed the walls of the embassy and ripped down the American flag. President Morsi was slow to respond to the protests and issued only a tepid condemnation of the violence, prompting a call from President Barack Obama, who warned that relations between the U.S. and Egypt will suffer if he fails to take stronger action against anti-American violence. The protests coincided with similar actions in Yemen, Tunisia, Morocco, Sudan, Indonesia, and Pakistan. In Libya, the U.S. ambassador, Christopher Stevens, and three other embassy officials were killed by armed gunmen.
In November 2012 as violence intensified between Israelis and members of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, President Morsi held indirect talks with Hamas and the Israeli government in an attempt to prevent further destabilization in the region. On Nov. 21, Egyptian foreign Mohamed Kamel Amr and U.S. secretary of state Hillary Clinton announced a cease-fire had been signed.
Any praise that Morsi received for intervening in the Gaza crisis was quickly overshadowed by a brazen power grab announced on November 22, in which he declared authority over the courts, thereby removing any check on his actions by the courts. He said the move was necessary because the judiciary, made up of Mubarak appointees, was threatening to suspend the constitutional assembly before it completed the task of drafting a new constitution. Progress on writing a new constitution had been stalled by members of the opposition on the committee. Morsi also said the edict would bring "political, social and economic stability" and remove barriers to a smooth transition of power. The decree was met with large protests in Tahrir Square, the scene of the uprising against Mubarak, and international condemnation. It also fueled accusations that one autocrat had succeeded another.
Days later—on November 26—Morsi seemed to have backtracked in repsonse to the outpouring of rage, saying only "acts of sovereignty" would be exempt from judicial oversight. The clarification did little to placate his opponents. Under threat of being suspended by the courts, the constitutional assembly hastily approved a draft document on Nov. 29. The constitution satisfied some of the demands of the revolutionaries by weakening the presidency and strengthening Parliament and banning torture, however it was criticized for affirming the power of the military and potentially limiting the rights of women and religious minorities. The draft constitution passed because Morsi's opponents on the committee from secular groups and Coptic Christians boycotted the vote. Thousands of protesters took to the streets to demonstrate against Morsi's power grab. The protests turned violent when members of the Muslim Brotherhood tried to break up the crowds. Several people were killed in the fighting between the opposing sides. Morsi and about a dozen members of the Muslim Brotherhood were accused of inciting the murder of a journalist and two opposition figures, and the ordering torture and the illegal detention of protesters. The referendum on the constitution was held in December, and about 64% of voters approved it. Turnout, however, was low—less than 33%.
Violent protests erupted throughout Egypt on January 25, 2013, the second anniversary of the revolution. Demonstrators focused their ire on the Muslim Brotherhood and President Mohamed Morsi's government, frustrated that the country was headed on an ideologically conservative path under the Islamists and that Morsi has failed to bolster the economy or fulfill promises to introduce broader civil liberties and social justice. As the protests continued and dozens of people were killed in the violence, Morsi declared a state of emergency in three large cities: Suez, Ismailia, and Port Said. The violence was particularly gruesome in Port Said after 21 people were sentenced to death for their role in the deadly brawl at a Feb. 2012 soccer match that resulted in the death of about 75 people. Defying the state of emergency and attendant curfew, rioters, who were upset with the verdict, wreaked havoc throughout the city, attacking police stations, a power plant and a jail. At least 45 people died in Port Said alone. News reports indicated the victims were shot by police. Police also reportedly shot live ammunition and tear gas at protesters in other cities, including Cairo.
In March 2013, Morsi called for early parliamentary elections, to be held in April. The main opposition coalition, the National Salvation Front, said it would boycott the vote, claiming the elections would not be free or fair. A court, however, cancelled the election in early March, saying Morsi did not clear the election schedule with the his cabinet or the prime minister.