CAIRO -- Egypt’s ruling generals said Friday the military would not tolerate public unrest and would use “utmost firmness” against activists and revolutionary forces they see as threatening stability during the nation’s political turmoil.
The statement, read on state television, was aimed at the Muslim Brotherhood and other political groups that have condemned recent decisions by the military and the country’s highest court to dissolve parliament and limit the powers of the next president. The moves, according to activists, are a counter-revolution by the army to retain control of the government.
“Protecting the status of state institutions is a national responsibility for all; any attack on them threatens the stability and national security of Egypt,” said the statement by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. “Any attempts to harm public or private interests will be confronted with utmost firmness and strength by the police and armed forces within the law.”
The warning came as tens of thousands protested for a fourth day against military rule in Cairo, Alexandria and other cities. The political climate has intensified ahead of the expected announcement this weekend of the results from the recent presidential runoff between Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi and Ahmed Shafik, a retired air force general and the last prime minister to serve deposed leader Hosni Mubarak.
The Brotherhood claims Morsi won the election by about 900,000 votes, a contention supported by independent media and a panel of judges. But Shafik’s campaign, including Mubarak loyalists and politicians close to the military, insist the former fighter pilot will be named president. Egypt is bracing for violence no matter who wins; armored vehicles, soldiers and barricades have been seen for days on highways and near government buildings.
The military’s statement blamed the Brotherhood of agitating the political scene by announcing that Morsi had won before official results have been released. The results have been delayed while the national elections commission investigates allegations of fraud against both campaigns.
“The early release of the presidential election results, before the announcement by the responsible body, was unjustified and is one of the main reasons for divisions and tensions in the political arena,” the military’s statement said.
The army added: “National responsibility requires all political forces to ... abide by the rules of the democratic process.”
Morsi and the Brotherhood have suggested that the delay in publicizing the results is an attempt by the military, which for decades has opposed the idea of an Islamist president, to manipulate the process to allow Shafik to win. On Saturday, Morsi said the military should not move against the “popular will.”
The Brotherhood, which has been criticized by revolutionary groups for political opportunism, met with various factions in an attempt to renew the unity that propelled the uprising that overthrew Mubarak in early 2011.
Ahram Online reported that the Brotherhood, which with Islamist allies controlled about 70% of the now-dissolved parliament, has agreed to “make concessions to non-Islamist political factions guaranteeing them representation in both the government and in the drafting of the constitution.”
-- Jeffrey Fleishman
Photo: Egyptian supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood's candidate for president, Mohamed Morsi, gather in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Friday. Credit: Bernat Armangue / Associated Press.