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Middle East

From Mubarak to Morsi - the story so far

Within two years and with the help of the army, the Egyptians have overthrown two presidents. The period has been marked by protests and disturbances.

When did the first major unrest in Egypt flare up?

In January 2011, Tahrir Square in Cairo became the center of massive protests against corruption - especially with regard to the regime of President Hosni Mubarak. The police responded with violence, but that did not prevent the protesters, mainly young Egyptians, from demonstrating for weeks.

On February 11, it seemed as if one of their main goals had been achieved: in a statement delivered by the vice-president, Omar Suleiman, Mubarak announced his resignation after almost 30 years in office. Power was taken by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces under Marshal Hussein Tantawi. The new government planned to draft a new constitution, hold a referendum and elect a new government within six months.

What happened in the transition period between Mubarak and Morsi?

Mubarak Photo by KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images

The people got rid of Mubarak after 30 years, with the help of the military

The period between Mubarak's fall and the election of his successor, Mohammed Morsi, was marked by continued unrest. Initially, some people welcomed the role of the army, but the Supreme Council soon found itself accused of maintaining the old power structures and of carrying out numerous human rights abuses.

Already, shortly after the military took power, thousands of people were gathering on Tahrir Square again in protests to which the army responded with violence. The military took a particularly hard line just ahead of the parliamentary elections in November 2011.

In the election results, the Muslim Brotherhood were the largest party with 40 percent. The ultra-conservative Salafists also made a good showing - they consider all entertainment to be sinful and reject the participation of women in public and political life.

What happened once Morsi took office?

A protester, opposing Egypt's President Mohamed Mursi, sits next to graffiti depicting Mursi on a wall of the Presidential Palace REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

Morsi could not resist the pressure of the people and the army together

On June 12, 2012, Mohammed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood's lead candidate, won the first free presidential elections in Egypt with 52 percent of the vote. Observers say that his success was partly due to the failure of the non-Islamist parties to agree on a joint candidate. But Morsi also benefited from the reputation of the Muslim Brotherhood as a group which had suffered oppression under Mubarak and which had been banned until the 2011 revolution.

From the start, Morsi's presidency was marked by a battle for power with the military. In August 2012, he suspended articles of the constitution which limited his power in favor of the military. In November 2012, he passed a decree which made his directives immune to challenge from the constitutional court. Morsi's attempts to increase his powers led to increasingly vocal protest from society and the opposition. In the course of his presidency, he found himself accused of turning Egypt into an Islamic state.

What led to the latest protests and calls for his resignation?

Egypt's President Mohamed Mursi (C) stands after laying a wreath during his visit to the tomb of former President Anwar al-Sadat and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier during the commemoration of Sinai Liberation Day in Cairo REUTERS/Egyptian Presidency/Handout/Files

Al-Sissi and Morsi were once allies

In mid-June, around the first anniversary of his coming to office, Morsi appointed seven members of the Muslim Brotherhood and a member of the former terror group Gamaa Islamiya as provincial governors. Liberal Egyptians reacted with horror, and within a few days, more and more people went out on to the streets to demonstrate against Morsi. The mass protests also marked the end of a campaign to gather signatures for a petition calling for his resignation. According to the petition's initiators in the "Tamarod" ("Rebellion") movement, they gathered 22 million signatures.

Meanwhile, Islamist politicians and clerics called on Egyptians to defend the country's legitimate leadership. But powerful elements in the state had begun to support the demonstrators' demands.

What role does the military play in Egypt?

Members of the Muslim Brotherhood and supporters of Egypt's President Mohamed Mursi react after the Egyptian army's statement was read out on state TV REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

The Muslim Brothers have to work out how they will respond to the new situation

The Egyptian army is one of the most important actors on the country's political stage. Since the end of the monarchy in 1952, all the Egyptian presidents have come from its ranks: Mohammed Nagib, Gamal Abdel Nasser, Anwar al-Sadat and Hosni Mubarak. At the same time, it was the military which was crucial in Mubarak's overthrow in that they refused to use violence to put down the demonstrations against him on Tahrir Square.

The military has once more played an important role and taken the upper hand in the fall of Morsi. It was Abdul Fattah el-Sissi, army chief of staff and Morsi's defense minister, who issued the president with an ultimatum: if he didn't respond to the demands of the demonstrators, the army would step in. And it was the military which announced Morsi's arrest and appointed the president of the constitutional court, Adli Mansour, as interim president to replace him.

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