“Breaking: Mohamed Morsy is the president of the Egyptian Republic,” said activists on social media websites jokingly as an expression of Morsy’s assertion of power after catching the country off guard by sending the head of the Supreme Council of Armed Forces Mohamed Hussein Tantawi and Chief of Staff Sami Anan to retirement Sunday.
In an unprecedented reshuffle of the 19-member SCAF, Morsy replaced Tantawi, who has been defense minister for 22 years, with current Military Intelligence Chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi who was promoted two ranks and now heads the ministry and the armed forces, the presidency’s spokesperson Yasser Ali announced on Sunday. The president also promoted Sidqy Sobhy, the third field army leader to be the military chief of staff, while Mohamed al-Assar was appointed as deputy defense minister. Additionally, Head of Naval Forces Mohab Mamish was assigned as leader of the Suez Canal Authority.
Political and military experts say that Morsy’s radical decision to cast aside Tantawi and Anan, who remained on top of the military institution for decades, indicates that the president is consolidating his power over the military establishment in a tactful manner, without necessarily ending the legacy of the military state. For one, the promotion of second rank military officers is considered a tactical move to preempt any possible opposition from the army, they argue.
“It’s a takeover of military rule rather than the end of military rule. This is another phase of authoritarian rule,” says Robert Springborg, a professor at the Department of National Security Affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School and an expert on the Egyptian military institution.
“The military is now serving as an instrument for the Muslim Brotherhood. Morsy’s move institutionalizes normal civilian control over the military,” he added.
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