Egyptian military ousts president, suspends constitution in what Morsi calls 'a full coup'
Andrea Janus , CTVNews.ca
Published Wednesday, July 3, 2013 6:20AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, July 3, 2013 11:12PM EDT
Fireworks exploded over Cairo’s Tahrir Square Wednesday evening as Egypt’s military announced it is suspending the country’s constitution and will replace embattled President Mohammed Morsi.
Lt.-Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi announced on state television that Morsi will be replaced by Adly Mansour, chief justice of Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court until new elections are held. He also said the military will install a temporary civilian government to run the country for an unspecified period of time, but also called for early presidential elections.
Muslim Brotherhood party spokesperson Gehad el-Haddad said Morsi was being kept under house arrest at a Presidential Guard facility where he had been residing. A travel ban has also been placed on Morsi and other top members of the Muslim Brotherhood.
A statement posted to the Egyptian presidential Twitter account quoted Morsi as saying the developments amounted to “a full coup categorically rejected by all the free men of our nation.”
Morsi took office one year ago as Egypt’s first democratically elected leader. However, some Egyptians are suspicious of his Islamist ties.
As el-Sissi spoke, protesters who had filled the streets of Cairo for four days demanding that Morsi step down and the military dissolve parliament erupted in cheers and set off fireworks, which exploded in bursts of colour against the night sky.
They shouted “God is great,” and “Long live Egypt,” as they danced and waved Egyptian flags.
Morsi supporters, who have also been protesting, marched through the streets chanting “No to military rule.”
More than 50 people have died in violent clashes during the protests, including 23 people on Tuesday.
El-Sissi’s announcement came hours after a military deadline passed that called for Morsi to meet protesters’ demands. On Monday, the military gave Morsi 48 hours to resign. But on Tuesday, Morsi had remained defiant, saying he would not resign and calling on the military to suspend its ultimatum.
Protesters have accused Morsi of trying to impose tighter controls on Egyptians via the Muslim Brotherhood and accuse him of failing to address Egypt’s economic and social problems.
Morsi’s supporters have said they are trying to protect Islam in Egypt, although Morsi had been careful to say that his defiance stemmed from his belief in his “electoral legitimacy.”
Morsi won power more than a year after former leader Hosni Mubarak was ousted in massive protests that were part of the so-called Arab Spring.
El-Sissi spoke with the country’s top Christian and Muslim leaders by his side. He was also accompanied by reform leader Mohammed ElBaradei, as well as representatives from the youth opposition movement.
El-Sissi vowed “not to exclude anyone or any movement” as the transition process unfolds.
A security official told The Associated Press the head of the Freedom and Justice Party as well as a deputy of the Brotherhood’s top leader were arrested hours after el-Sissi’s address on state television.
Meanwhile, El-Hadded said hundreds of Brotherhood members are believed to be wanted for arrest, including himself.
"We don't know the details. The army is not giving details," he told The Associated Press. "It is a full-fledged coup and it is turning into a bloody one too. They are arresting everybody."
On Wednesday, Morsi’s Twitter account included a message to Egyptians to remain calm and avoid violence. A spokesperson for Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird issued a statement with the same message.
“Canada urges all parties in Egypt to remain calm, avoid violence and engage in meaningful dialogue,” Rick Roth, Baird’s press secretary, said in a statement.
“Canada firmly believes that implementing a transparent democratic system that respects the voices of its citizens, and that encourages and respects the contributions of civil society and all other segments of the population, including religious minorities, is the best way to restore calm and give all Egyptians a stake in the future stability and prosperity of Egypt.”
NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar said the Official Opposition is “watching the events in Egypt with great concern and following the developments closely.
“All parties must respect the right of peaceful demonstration and reject violence. The solution to this crisis must be a political one that respects the democratic aspirations of the Egyptian people.”
The Canadian Embassy in Cairo will remain closed until further notice. The embassy was shuttered on Tuesday “to ensure the protection of all staff.”