CAIRO – The military has removed Egypt's first democratically president, Mohammed Morsi, from office to the joy of millions of anti-government protesters accusing the Islamist leader of abusing his authority. The chief judge of the Supreme Constitutional Court has been installed as an interim leader more than two years after autocratic leader Hosni Mubarak was ousted. The military also has moved swiftly against Morsi's Islamist allies, including the Muslim Brotherhood. Here are a few questions and answers about the latest turmoil in the Arab world's most populous country.
WHO IS RUNNING EGYPT?
The chief judge of the Supreme Constitutional Court Adly Mansour has been installed by the armed forces as interim president after Morsi's ouster. Mansour, 67, was appointed to the court by Morsi's predecessor, Hosni Mubarak, but elevated to the chief justice post only two days before the Islamist leader was deposed. After his swearing-in ceremony, Mansour delivered an address praising the massive street demonstrations that led to Morsi's ouster but showed no sign of outreach to Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood. He suggested Morsi's election had been tainted, saying, "I look forward to parliamentary and presidential elections held with the genuine and authentic will of the people."
The military has insisted it is acting on the will of the people to clear the way for a new leadership and not carrying out a coup, but it has clearly positioned itself to maintain control during any unrest following Morsi's ouster, launching a major crackdown against the deposed leader's Muslim Brotherhood. It also suspended the Islamist-backed constitution and dissolved the Islamist-dominated parliament. While welcoming the military's intervention to oust Morsi, some Egyptians are worried it will resort to heavy-handed measures and try to assert too much control as it was criticized for doing in the wake of Mubarak's ouster. Now, a government has to be picked and negotiations, which are likely to involve the military, are ongoing on possible candidates.
WHAT IS HAPPENING WITH MORSI?
Morsi has been detained in an unknown location since the generals pushed him out Wednesday. His family was not with him when he was detained and their whereabouts are unknown. So far the army has released few details about whether the ousted leader will face any charges or what will happen to him, but he could face legal action related to a prison break that happened during the chaos during the 18-day uprising that ousted Mubarak in 2011, and possibly the death of protesters during his year in office. At least a dozen of his senior aides and advisers are being held in what is described as house arrest.
HOW ARE MORSI'S SUPPORTERS REACTING?
The Muslim Brotherhood has insisted the military has carried out a coup and announced it wants nothing to do with the new political system. Thousands of Morsi's supporters are rallying and holding a sit-in in eastern Cairo, chanting: "We say it loudly, Morsi is the president of the republic." Authorities have issued a wanted list for more than 200 Brotherhood members and leaders of other Islamist groups. The Muslim Brotherhood's leader Mohammed Badie has been arrested on suspicion of responsibility in the killing of at least six protesters during clashes at the Brotherhood's headquarters. The Brotherhood's television station, Misr 25, has been taken off the air along with several TV networks run by Islamists. There are fears of a violent backlash from Islamists against the army move, particularly from hard-liners, some of whom belong to former armed militant groups. Clashes between Islamists and police erupted in multiple places around the country after the army's announcement of Morsi's removal Wednesday night, leaving at least nine dead. His supporters are calling for a major rally in his support Friday.
HOW IS THE U.S. RESPONDING?
The United States is handling the military overthrow of Morsi in delicate diplomatic terms, aware that the matter could affect billions of dollars in U.S. aid, national security and President Barack Obama's credibility on promoting the democratic process around the world. The safety of Americans in the region was a particular concern. Obama notably avoided using the word "coup" in his carefully-crafted statement Wednesday night. That allowed him wiggle room to navigate a U.S. law that says the government must suspend foreign aid to any nation whose elected leader is ousted in a coup d'etat. The U.S. considers the $1.5 billion a year it sends Egypt to be a critical U.S. national security priority.
WHAT DOES THIS CHANGE IN LEADERSHIP MEAN FOR PEACE AND STABILITY IN THE MIDDLE EAST?
Morsi has been cool to Israel, but he also showed himself to be surprisingly pragmatic, allowing military cooperation to continue and sometimes serving as a moderating influence. Egypt last year brokered a cease fire between Israel and Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip that ended eight days of rocket fire and airstrikes. More recently, the Egyptian military has cracked down on arms smuggling into the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. That is unlikely to change, and Israeli military officials say Egypt has moved forces into the volatile border area near Gaza to help contain militant threats. The price of oil, meanwhile, eased to below $101 a barrel Thursday after jumping higher on unrest in Egypt and signs of rising demand in the U.S.
WHAT ARE THE LONGER PROSPECTS FOR THE FUTURE OF DEMOCRACY IN EGYPT?
If the armed forces statement holds true, then Egypt will have an elected parliament and president during this transition period. The military didn't specify the length of the transitional period, but it is not likely to be more than a year. The military also has temporarily suspended the Islamist-backed constitution while announcing the creation of a panel of experts to amend disputed articles in the charter, said to be violating rights and freedoms. No date has been set for a referendum on these amendments as is customary in Egypt in such cases. There are fears among activists that Morsi's ouster could usher in yet another era of army rule. However, the military statement did not include a role for the armed forces in politics.