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Jul 3, 2013 | 01:16 GMT

3 mins read

Egypt's President Defies an Army Ultimatum

Egypt's President Defies an Army Ultimatum
(KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi in a speech early July 3 called on the military to abandon the 48-hour ultimatum it set for him to end the unrest currently sweeping the country or deal with a possible military intervention. At a time when most observers had expected Morsi to buckle under growing pressure from the nationwide protests and the military's deadline, which will expire late afternoon July 3, the Egyptian president adopted a defiant position and repeatedly emphasized that his government is the legitimate elected representative of the Egyptian people.

This move has been interpreted as hubris on the part of Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, with many even mocking him for seeming oblivious to what they view as the hopelessness of his position. Stratfor's view is that Morsi and the Brotherhood may have found a weak point in the military's position and are trying to leverage it in an effort to get out of a very difficult situation. Morsi's calculus is that even though the army has set a deadline, it is unlikely that the military will have the nerve to remove Egypt's first democratically elected president. In essence, Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood are gambling with the mandate they feel they received in the 2012 elections, invoking their electoral legitimacy in the face of the military's attempts at strong-arming them.

It was not lost on Morsi and the Brotherhood that shortly after the speech by military chief Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in which the ultimatum was announced, the military came back with an addendum clarifying that the expiration of the 48-hour deadline did not mean that the army would engage in a coup. Seeing that the armed forces was also vague in its choice of words on what it would do should Morsi not heed the demand to end the protests by stepping down, the president spent the better part of his speech stating that he was the legitimate ruler being pushed out in a process that would undermine the very foundations of the state.  

Furthermore, he reiterated his willingness to sit down with the opposition and address their grievances. He appealed to those protesting not to become partisan to the point that it undermined the welfare of the country. Making use of this conciliatory tone, appeals to national interest and, most important, frequently underscoring the legitimacy of his rule, Morsi has made it even more difficult for the military to implement its "political roadmap," which includes the suspension of the constitution, appointing a ruling council and holding new elections. Essentially, he has put the military in a position where it must either launch the coup it suggested it would avoid, or lose face for doing nothing as Morsi defies its ultimatum.

Meanwhile, the Brotherhood has mobilized its supporters on the streets. While the military would likely be able to seize Morsi at will, it would have much more difficulty dealing with the backlash from Muslim Brotherhood supporters that would follow such an action. That Morsi gave such a defiant speech hours before the expiration of the ultimatum shows that the Brotherhood feels it can force a compromise where any concessions that the Brotherhood may have to make will not result in a complete loss of power.

There are no guarantees that this strategy will work. But from the Brotherhood's point of view there is less to lose and more to gain from standing its ground.

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