Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi stunned the country today by firing the military leaders who were his chief rivals for power, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi and chief of staff Sami Anan:
I think Morsi has pulled it off.
For one thing, he's named a bunch of other SCAFers to succeed Tantawi and Anan, and those guys aren't whining about his right to do so.
The announcement said the move was taken in consultation with SCAF, and that T and A would remain presidential advisers, plus they'd get the Collar of the Nile for their past services. But it also made clear he'd "ordered" them to retire.
Also fired: navy, air force, and air defense chiefs. But they were also given golden handshakes, like running the Suez Canal.
Pretty deftly done.
Especially important was cancelling SCAF's constitutional decree limiting Morsi's powers. That technically had to be Step 1, because the military's decree also barred the pres from interfering in military affairs (like firing the defense minister, head of SCAF, navy chief, etc.).
If the firings are meekly accepted by the military, as appears to have happened, what are the chances that the courts will rule Morsi can't overturn the decree?
Zero, I think. Morsi just named a judge as VP, signaling how he respects the judicial system.
Morsi also revived the panel that had been drawing up a new constitution, giving it a deadline to finish a draft that can be put to voters in a referendum.
So a bloodless (and essentially democratic) coup.
The military still wields too much power, but its new leadership looks willing to co-operate with Morsi and parliament, rather than struggling with them for absolute authority.
Next step will be to nudge the courts into letting the existing parliament function, at least until new elections can be held.
Morsi had promised to name both a woman and a Copt as vice-presidents. It'll be interesting to see whether he still feels the need, now that he's defanged the military.
As for Tantawi and Anan being awarded Egypt's highest honor, the Collar of the Nile, I'm wondering whether theirs might be made of some especially heavy material.