CAIRO — The armed forces ousted Egypt’s first democratically elected president Wednesday after just a year in power, installing a temporary civilian government, suspending the constitution and calling for new elections. Islamist President Mohammed Morsi denounced it as a “full coup” by the military.
After the televised announcement by the army chief, millions of anti-Morsi protesters in cities around the country erupted in delirious scenes of joy, with shouts of “God is great” and “Long live Egypt.”
Fireworks burst over crowds dancing and waving flags in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, epicenter of the 2011 uprising that ousted autocrat Hosni Mubarak. Now it was one of multiple centers of a stunning four-day anti-Morsi revolt that brought out the biggest anti-government rallies Egypt has seen, topping even those of 2011.
But the move potentially throws the country into further confrontation.
Moments after the army statement, a statement on the Egyptian president’s office’s Twitter account quoted Morsi as saying the military’s measures “represent a full coup categorically rejected by all the free men of our nation.”
Morsi has insisted his legitimacy as an elected president must not be violated or Egypt could be thrown in to violence. Some of his Islamist backers, tens of thousands of whom took to the streets in recent days, have vowed to fight to the end.
“Down with the rule of the military,” some of them chanted after the army announcement, reviving a chant used by leftist revolutionaries during the nearly 17 months of direct military rule that followed Mubarak’s removal.
The army has insisted it is not carrying out a coup, but acting on the will of the people to clear the way for a new leadership.
In his speech, army chief Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi said the chief justice of the Supreme Constitutional Court would step in as interim president until new elections are held. He would be sworn in judges of his court, el-Sissi said. A government of technocrats would be formed with “full powers” to run the country.