Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi has dismissed his military chief as part of a sweeping set of decisions that include the appointment of a Vice-President and the rescinding of a military order that curbed presidential powers.
Presidential spokesman Yasser Ali announced the retirement of Hussein Tantawi, head of the armed forces, and the chief of staff, Sami Anan. They have been appointed as advisers to Morsi.
The president also cancelled the complementary constitutional declaration issued by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (Scaf), announced days before he was declared the victor in June’s elections. It had curbed presidential power and kept much of it in the hands of the military council.
“This sets up an inevitable showdown with the supreme constitutional court as the court is likely to attempt to overturn Morsi’s cancelling of the supplemental constitutional declaration. It seems this move will require the sacking of the court if it is to stand,” said Michael Hanna, a fellow at the Century Foundation, a US thinktank.
Morsi’s move on Sunday marks the latest blow in a tussle between the Muslim Brotherhood and the military over control of post-transitional Egypt. The decision to remove Tantawi and Anan was taken in consultation with Scaf, including Tantawi, the new deputy minister of defence, Mohamed el-Assar, told Reuters.
Replacing Tantawi is the head of military intelligence, Abdel-Fatah el-Sissi — one of the generals who defended the use of “virginity tests” against female protesters in March 2011 — with El-Assar as his deputy. The new chief of staff is General Sidqi Sobhi Sayed. The appointments are all members of Scaf.
“What is happening now was planned once Scaf realised they had to make a deal with the Brotherhood anyway,” said Sherif Azer, deputy director of the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights. “This moment where Scaf would fade back into the background was expected, and I believe that they knew this was their best option for a safe exit.”
Legislative powers now revert from the Scaf to Morsi.