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The two men running Egypt

Sven Pöhle / ngJuly 5, 2013

Judge Adly Mansour has been sworn in as interim president in Egypt after Mohammed Morsi's outing, but the real powerhouse is the military, which is led by General Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.

Adli Mansour (C), Egypt's chief justice and head of the Supreme Constitutional Court, is applauded by other judges after his swearing in ceremony as the nation's interim president in Cairo July 4, 2013, a day after the army ousted Mohamed Mursi as head of state. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh (EGYPT - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST MILITARY)
Ägypten Adli Mansour VereidigungImage: Reuters

"I swear by God to honor the law and the constitution and to serve justice." Barely 24 hours after President Mohammed Morsi had been ousted, Adly Mansour was sworn in as interim president.

Army head Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi had announced Morsi's ouster in a televised address the previous evening. After days of mass protests against Morsi, the general had set the first democratically elected president in Egypt a 48-hour ultimatum to respond to the will of the people. Until fresh elections are called, Mansour is to serve as interim president along with a technocrat government.

Mansour served under Morsi, Mubarak

"Mansour is relatively unknown in Egypt's political scene," says Christian Achrainer, political scientist at the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP).

The 67-year-old Mansour, who has been working for the country's constitutional court since 1992, had been in office as president of the court for just two days when the military pushed Morsi out. Morsi had appointed Mansour to the post after his predecessor, Maher al-Behairis retired at the end of June.

A new law which came into force after Hosni Mubarak was toppled forces the president to appoint one of the three longest-serving vice presidents as president of the court.

This image made from Egyptian State Television shows Egypt's interim president Adly Mansour speaking after being sworn in at the constitutional court in Cairo, Thursday, July 4, 2013. Egypt's chief justice of the Supreme Constitutional Court has been sworn in as interim president after Egyptians awoke Thursday to a new political reality after the military overthrew the country's first democratically elected president after only a year in office, shunting the Islamist leader aside in the same kind of Arab Spring uprising that brought him to power. (AP Photo/Egyptian State TV)
Mansour will serve as interim presidentImage: picture-alliance/AP

During the row between Morsi's government and the judiciary Mansour kept a low profile, according to Achrainer. Morsi had suspended amendments to the constitution and stripped the constitutional court of its right to rule on the legitimacy of the constitutional committee, which was dominated by Morsi's Islamists.

In June, the Supreme Constitutional Court had ruled the upper house of parliament, which was dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, unlawful.

Despite his low profile, Mansour was involved in some key decisions after Mubarak's fall. "Before the last presidential elections, he was one of the people who fought for supporters of the old regime to be allowed to take part in the vote," says Achrainer, which will not work in his favor. Neither will his long career in the judiciary under Mubarak.

'Young' general in key role

But the military is the most powerful force in the country - now as much as after the coup of 1952 and after the fall of Mubarak in 2011.

"Without the armed forces Mansour would not be president, they are in the driving seat," says Ronald Meinardus of the Friedrich-Naumann Foundation's bureau in Cairo.

Abdel Fattah el-Sissi is the head of the armed forces. He succeeded Hussein Tantawi as defense minister in August 2012 and is a practicing Muslim. But he was also "educated in the tradition of Nasserism," says Meinardus. "The Egyptian military comes from that tradition. The officers are actually secular." Former president Abdel Nasser was known as a vehement critic of the Muslim Brotherhood.

epa03605799 Egyptian Pro-military forces protesters hold posters depicting Egyptian Minister of Defense Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi, during a demonstration against the Muslim Brotherhood, in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Nasr City Cairo, Egypt,01 March 2013. The protest is a call to keep the military free of Brotherhood influence so that President Mohamed Morsy's government can't use the Armed Forces as a tool to attack peaceful protesters. EPA/KHALED ELFIQI
El-Sissi is one of the youngest army generalsImage: picture-alliance/dpa

Aged 58, El-Sissi is one of the youngest generals and didn't serve in the wars against Israel in 1967 and 1973. After the fall of Mubarak he became the youngest member of the ruling Supreme Military Council and head of the military intelligence service.

After Mubarak stepped down, el-Sissi came under fire for trying to justify the sexual harassment of Egyptian women by soldiers as virginity tests. After fierce international criticism he revised his stance and announced the end of such "examinations" as he called them.

"The military's dictatorship after the fall of Mubarak wasn't exactly a glorious phase in Egyptian history," Meinardus says of the time when Tantawi headed the military council for 17 months and gave it sweeping political powers.

New constitution, old interests

By appointing Mansour as interim president the army is not taking center stage this time. El-Sissi told the media that the military would "steer well clear of politics."

The Islamic constitution that Morsi had put in place has already been suspended and a new committee has been set up to work on a new constitution, which will be put to a referendum.

But the interests of the military are always in the background, according to Achrainer. "The economic empire of the military must not be put in jeopardy, and the country's leaders must not get involved in military matters," he says.

Under Morsi, the military felt threatened and decided to act.