Empowered Morsi praised for army shake-up


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The Independent Online

Mohamed Morsi was revelling in his surprise new role as presidential strongman and revolutionary flag-bearer last night, as speculation grew that his shock dismissal of Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi was a "soft coup" triggered by disaffected army officers.

Mr Morsi, previously perceived as something of a powder-puff president by many Egyptians, wrong-footed many of his critics late on Sunday by announcing the removal of General Tantawi, the man who served as Defence Minister for 17 years and who became the nation's de facto leader as head of Egypt's Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (Scaf).

The man selected to take his place was confirmed as Major General Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, the ex-military intelligence chief whose previously came to prominence when he admitted the army had carried out controversial "virginity tests" on female protesters arrested last year.

Mr Morsi's announcement, which analysts claimed was an ''historic'' defeat for Egypt's six-decade-old army establishment, was coupled with a decision to ditch a raft of legislative and constitutional powers which the military council had carved up for itself back in June.

Following the recent court decision to dissolve parliament, it means that Mr Morsi now enjoys full executive and legislative authority over the country – a major fillip for the Muslim Brotherhood, which appears to have outmaneuvered Egypt's top brass after months of grappling over the reins of power.

Speaking to i yesterday, one junior officer said many soldiers had come to 'hate' Field Marshal Tantawi. "Our reputation during Tantawi's time has become very bad" said Ahmed Salem.

Many political factions welcomed Mr Tantawi's dismissal, with former presidential candidate Mohamed El-Baradei using Twitter to say that ending military rule is "a step in the right direction."