Big news: The Supreme Council for the Armed Forces is flipped on its heels as President Mohamed Morsy decides to make his most significant power play since winning the elections. Morsy sent the head of the Supreme Council for the Armed Forces Hussein Tantawi and Chief of Staff Sami Anan to retirement, while appointing a new defense minister, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, as well as a vice president, Mahmoud Mekky, who is a deputy at the Appeals Court.
State television announced this decision in the afternoon, giving newspapers little time to come up with nuanced responses to the most radical political shuffle this year, besides getting a new president, of course. The result is a particularly spontaneous — and mostly naïve — batch of front pages.
Independent daily Al-Shorouk, win the prize for most presumptive reactive headline, “Morsy ends the military rule.” Before reshuffling the top brass in the Armed Forces, Morsy had to cancel the supplementary clauses to the Constitutional Declaration of 30 March 2011, in order to give himself the power to impose such changes on the military. State-run daily, Al-Akhbar, and the Freedom and Justice Party’s paper Freedom and Justice both chose hyperbolic optimism, as their main headlines read, “Morsy’s revolutionary decisions” and “Historical decisions,” respectively. Freedom and Justice quotes a Muslim Brotherhood statement, “The president now fulfilled his promise at the square.”
The Wafd Party’s paper Al-Wafd went in the opposite direction of hysterical pessimism, asking, “Where’s Egypt heading to?” next to a cloudy photo with a flag bearer in the middle. This headline is not directly associated with the news of Morsy’s shuffle — it is the headline for a two-page special on the Brotherhood’s alleged attack on independent and state-owned media last week. But Al-Wafd places it directly above their second-largest headline, “The secrets behind Tantawi and Anan’s retirement.”
Minister of Information Salah Abdel Maqsoud denied that there would be any widespread reshuffling of media heads, according to Al-Akhbar. Al-Wafd shows a caricature of a minibus about to fly off of a cliff, with the faded image of a man with a beard in the driver’s seat, and media heads in the back.
Back to the shuffle: State flagship paper Al-Ahram is the only paper to steer clear from editorializing the events in exaggerated headlines, and they only state the facts. SCAF member Mohamed al-Assar says the armed forces were consulted before Morsy decided to change their leaders according to Al-Ahram. An unknown military leader also denied in Al-Ahram that there negative reactions to the move within the Armed Forces.
The decision was a shock to many and so far, it is unclear how the former heads of the SCAF actually feel about all of this. Al-Shorouk claims that it is not actually clear whether or not the heads of the armed forces were informed of the decision beforehand. One of their military sources says the SCAF members were dumbfounded by the decision. However in what was called a peace offering, Morsy will give Tantawi and Annan Egypt’s highest state honor, the Collar of the Nile, for their services to the country. The new chief of staff is Sidqy Sobhy.
Analysts and politicians’ quick reactions are also splattered all over the papers today. Al-Wafd columnist Gamal Abul Futtouh believes that Assar’s comments were unfounded and if they are true, then it would only mean that the US is behind this move. Otherwise, Abul Futtouh and Al-Akhbar see Morsy’s move as a way to decisively put himself at the helm in Egypt, negating any notion of the duality of power between him and the military. Part of this power-play goes back to the Constitutional Declaration, which gives Morsy more powers and allows him the right to put together a new Constituent Assembly.
In Al-Ahram, Mohamed ElBaradei, former head of the UN nuclear watchdog, called the move “a step in the right direction.” Lawyers Syndicate head and president of the Nasserist Party Sameh Ashour, said it was a “coup for the Brotherhood.” Others who oppose the move think it is nothing but a path to a single-party state under the Muslim Brotherhood, according to Al-Akhbar and Al-Wafd. The head of the Democratic Front Party, Al-Saeed Kamel, called it a coup against the state, while former Tagammu Party MP Al-Badry Farghaly questioned whether or not the country would be able to accommodate such a drastic change in its current fragile state, according to Al-Akhbar.
However, most Islamist, progressive and revolutionary political parties and groups agree with the move, Al-Shorouk says. But revolutionary groups believe it cannot be the substitute for seeking justice for those killed or maimed under military rule, or as a result of the SCAF’s policies. Freedom and Justice claims that the move yesterday is very popular and widely supported, pointing to supporting demonstrations last night. Al-Ahram points out, however, that some demonstrations yesterday were in opposition to the move, particularly by the small, vehemently anti-Brotherhood Mannassa sit-in.
On the Sinai front, Al-Akhbar claims that the peninsula has become “a permanent barracks to combat terrorists from.” Yesterday, military strikes claimed the lives of five alleged terrorists, according to Al-Shorouk. The military’s “Operation Eagle,” which is meant to be a quick retaliation to terrorist attacks on an Egyptian border post, is still ongoing according to most papers, and is continuously finding weapons caches and terrorists.
Al-Ahram: Daily, state-run, largest distribution in Egypt
Al-Akhbar: Daily, state-run, second to Al-Ahram in institutional size
Al-Gomhurriya: Daily, state-run
Rose al-Youssef: Daily, state-run
Al-Dostour: Daily, privately owned
Al-Shorouk: Daily, privately owned
Al-Watan: Daily, privately owned
Al-Wafd: Daily, published by the liberal Wafd Party
Youm7: Daily, privately owned
Al-Tahrir: Daily, privately owned
Freedom and Justice: Daily, published by the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party
Sawt al-Umma: Weekly, privately owned
Al-Arabi: Weekly, published by the Nasserist Party
Al-Nour: Official paper of the Salafi Nour Party