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As Millions Celebrate Morsi's Overthrow in Egypt, Five Things You Need Know About What Led to this Revolt

The military has taken over, installed an interim president, and placed Morsi and Muslim Brotherhood leaders under arrest.

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Some members of the revolutionary camp celebrated Morsi’s win at first, though others distrusted the Muslim Brotherhood’s secretive nature. But a consensus has slowly emerged among non-Islamist political actors that Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood have become anti-democratic forces intent on consolidating their power.

On November 22, 2012, Morsi issued a decree that effectively placed his decisions above and beyond any court until a new Constitution and parliament governing the nation were put in place. His reason for doing so was to protect the assembly drafting a new post-Mubarak Constitution from influence from a judiciary with ties to the old regime. But the decree was met with massive protests from the opposition, members of the judiciary and those who led the revolution, and Morsi was forced to back down on some of his power grab. Still, Morsi wasn’t done ramming his party’s vision for Egypt down the throats of the population at large.

At the end of the month, Egypt’s Constituent Assembly rushed to pass through what many saw as a flawed Constitution that would replace the temporary one drafted by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the military leaders who ran the country after Mubarak and who ceded power to Morsi when he was sworn in as president. The Constituent Assembly was already plagued by problems, most notably the walkout of non-Islamist members who felt that the Constitution would trample the rights of secularists, women, the press and workers. Despite the walkout, the Constitution was passed by the Islamist-dominated assembly. The Constitution was put to a referendum, and it passed easily, though turnout was low.

All of these crucial decisions by Morsi came as the Egyptian economy continued to implode. Instability has driven away investors and tourists, and unemployment, inflation and debt have increased. A recent fuel shortage has put the country on edge.

2. Brutality Against Opponents of Morsi

Brutality against demonstrators and opposition forces have continued in Morsi’s Egypt, despite the fact that one of the major drivers of the 2011 revolution was police brutality and impunity.

The paradigmatic event on this front occurred in December 2012. Protests against the impending vote on the Constitution had broken out. One opposition protest gathered outside the presidential palace, and pro-Morsi demonstrators were called on to defend the palace. Violence broke out on both sides, and eight members of the Muslim Brotherhood were killed. But torture and abuse were also inflicted on anti-Morsi demonstrators by Muslim Brotherhood supporters, which recalled for many Egyptians how the Mubarak regime had used paid thugs to intimidate opponents.

Islamists detained and beat dozens of the protesters and held them for hours with their hands bound. They then delivered the demonstrators to the Egyptian police, a security force that is feared and despised by much of the population.

The Egyptian police have continued to be on the front line of the repression of demonstrators during Morsi’s regime. But the relationship has also been characterized by tension between the police and Morsi. The police, long used to crack down on the Muslim Brotherhood, resent being used to suppress opposition to Morsi. Some members of the police who once defended Mubarak’s regime are now protesting against Morsi, and security forces have been noticeably absent from the current demonstrations and have not protected Muslim Brotherhood headquarters.

3. The Military’s Role

The Egyptian military, an opaque institution, is playing a crucial role in the current crisis. Backed by U.S. military aid and protective of their own economic interests, they essentially function as a state within a state.

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