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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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Pro-revolution graffiti on an Egyptian military vehicle.

 
 
 
 

The Egyptian street has erupted once again. Two and a half years after the revolution that overthrew longtime dictator Hosni Mubarak captivated the world and fundamentally changed the Middle East, another massive shock to the Egyptian political system is unfolding.

After a year of rule by President Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood-backed politician who won Egypt’s first-ever free and democratic elections last year, ordinary Egyptians have had enough. Responding to a grassroots campaign called “Tamarod”--which means rebel in Arabic--millions of Egyptians have taken to the streets across the Arab world’s most populous nation. They’ve protested in Cairo, the capital; in towns south of Cairo; in the port city of Alexandria; and elsewhere. They are united by one demand: Morsi should go--and he has now gone. 

The Egyptian military, the most powerful institution in the country, has forcefully stepped in. On July 1, the armed forces issued an ultimatum that gave Morsi 48 hours to respond to the protesters’ demands--or else be forced from office. The intervention raised the specter of a military coup and a return to military rule—and the specter turned into reality July 3. The military has deployed on the streets in what can only be descriped a coup, albeit a popular coup. The military intervention has immense popular support among the protesters. The Egyptian armed forces announced July 3 that Morsi has been deposed, and that a new political roadmap would be followed.

“No country advances when the society is divided like this,” Wael Ghonim, a key player in the 2011 Egyptian revolution, said on YouTube, according to TIME. “And the main role of the president of the republic is to unite, but, unfortunately, Dr. Morsi, the president of the republic, has miserably failed to do this.”

Fed up with an ailing economy, authoritarianism and a political process exclusively shaped by the Muslim Brotherhood, the masses in Egypt have forced Morsi out. Protesters' anger has exploded as Muslim Brotherhood offices have been burned to the ground, and the party's headquarters looted and ransacked. But the Muslim Brotherhood, which was a player in the 2011 revolution, is not likely to go quietly. Muslim Brotherhood activists have also taken to the streets, defending the party's headquarters and holding counter-rallies. At least 39 people have been killed in clashes between the opposing sides. An American English teacher caught up in the conflict in Alexandria was also killed June 28. In addition, at least one journalist was killed, one raped and seven injured.

The continued polarization in Egypt and the military’s renewed threats to intervene could spell disaster for a country struggling to get on its feet after 30 years of misrule, corruption and human rights abuses perpetrated by the U.S.-backed Mubarak regime.

What does this renewed revolt all mean, and where is it going? What are the roots of the crisis, and what does it mean for the region?

To help explain it all, here are 5 things you should know to understand the current political convulsions in Egypt.

1. Morsi’s Missteps

There are a number of factors fueling the current unrest in Egypt. But the first and most immediate factor is the Islamist leader’s missteps throughout his one-year rule.

Morsi, a Muslim Brotherhood member who was jailed by the Mubarak regime, wasn’t elected by overwhelming consensus. He only garnered about 52 percent of the total presidential vote in a contest that pitted him against a Mubarak regime stalwart, Ahmed Shafiq. So he came into office with a slim majority--but he ended up governing like the whole nation loved him, despite vowing in his inaugural address to act as “a servant to the people.”

 
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