Egyptians woke up with the question today — what happens after you depose a democratically elected government?
That was of course the government headed by Mohammed Morsi — a member of the Islamist political group the Muslim Brotherhood — removed from office yesterday by the country’s military.
Part of the answer to what’s next came from Adly Mansour, chief justice of the country’s Supreme Court, after he was sworn in today as interim president.
He called on all Egyptians to come together. And while he praised the military for suspending the constitution and deposing the elected government, he also stressed that the Muslim Brotherhood is welcome at the table, saying, nobody will be excluded.
Meanwhile, there are reports of summary arrests, former President Morsi is in military custody and a government official has confirmed that the head of the Muslim Brotherhood is under arrest.
- Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, international correspondent for NPR, based in Cairo. She tweets @sorayanelson.
JEREMY HOBSON, HOST:
From NPR and WBUR Boston, I'm Jeremy Hobson.
ROBIN YOUNG, HOST:
I'm Robin Young. It's HERE AND NOW. And we begin this hour in Egypt, where Egyptians are finding out the answer to the question what happens after you depose a democratically elected government.
HOBSON: And part of that answer came from, Adly Mansour, who was the head of the country's constitutional court. He is taking over for Mohammed Morsi, who was ousted yesterday. Mansour called on all Egyptians to come together. Here he is speaking through a translator.
ADLY MAHMUD MANSOUR: (Through translation) I salute all the political forces and the masses, irrespective of their opinions or beliefs, who will, thank God, will help us draft the future of this nation.
HOBSON: Well, meanwhile former President Morsi is in military custody, and a government official has confirmed that the head of the Muslim Brotherhood is under arrest. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson is in Cairo, and she joins us now. And Soraya, the day after this coup, yesterday there was fear that there might be violence or civil unrest. What's happening there today?
SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: Well, I don't know if you can hear behind me here. I'm in a hotel on a balcony overlooking Tahrir Square. But there's some serious celebrations going on. And you have the military doing victory laps, and you have military jets flying overhead, trailing plumes of red, white and black, reflecting the Egyptian flag. You have helicopters swooping very low over the crowds, and everyone is cheering and sending up fireworks.
But now of course it's important to remember that here at Tahrir Square, you have the anti-Morsi camp, and it's quite a different scene if you go to the rallies that are still being held in some locations for the deposed president. There there's a lot more anguish, there's a lot more fear and a determination to stay put until they're able to bring their president back.
HOBSON: Well, what do we know about this interim government so far? I mean, the new president, Adly Mansour, does not have any significant political following.
NELSON: No, he's somebody who was relatively obscure before yesterday. He's a 67-year-old judge with more than 40 years' experience on the bench. He was just appointed a couple days ago as the head of the Supreme Constitutional Court, which is the highest court in the land here. Fellow judges have told the state-funded Al-Ahram newspaper that he's someone who's very measured, and he's actually ideal to represent the will of Egyptians.
HOBSON: Now he praised the military in his speech, no big surprise there, but he also stressed that the Muslim Brotherhood is welcome to the table, saying nobody will be excluded. Is that just talk, or are they really going to be invited to the table?
NELSON: Well, it's important to note that Mansour, in his speech, actually referred to Morsi as a demagogic ruler, and that the youth of Egypt have helped bring him down. And certainly the arrests we've seen today doesn't really make the case for the planned inclusion of the Muslim Brotherhood. I mean, we're talking about the Supreme Guide being arrested, and we're talking about the Freedom and Justice Party's head also being arrested, and many, many more leaders.
The supporters of the coup say it's important that these leaders be imprisoned, though, because they're worried about a potential civil war. Given that the pro-Morsi supporters have vowed to have their - adherence, stay on the street and defend Morsi until he's restored to power.
HOBSON: What about the roadmap for Egypt's future, Soraya? When will the elections be held, and what else do we know about what comes next?
NELSON: Well, all we keep hearing is that it's going to be sometime soon. What that means is unclear. They haven't really specified. Obviously another step that we saw today was the swearing-in of the interim president, and a technocratic government is also to be appointed sometime in the near future here.
The armed forces also suspended the constitution that was ratified by the Islamists. So at the moment, this country is one without a constitution.
HOBSON: And finally, what about the U.S. role? I mean, there's this strange political game, it sounds like, going on at the White House. They don't want to call this a coup. How does the U.S. fit into all this?
NELSON: Well, certainly from the perspective here, America is a pariah. It doesn't matter which side you talk to. On the Brotherhood side, they see the Obama administration as being strongly allied with the military, supplying billions of dollars a year. And in fact one of the aides to the president in the days leading up to this told NPR that if a coup happened, it wouldn't be without the tacit approval of the U.S.
But then on the anti-Morsi side, you know, the people down in the square here, they think that the Obama administration has been much too close to the Brotherhood. And even the speech or the statement that Mr. Obama made yesterday, they felt - you know, where they talk about don't arrest Morsi and that sort of thing, where Mr. Obama was cautioning against this sort of thing...
NELSON: They just feel that this shows that in fact they're too close.
HOBSON: NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, in Cairo. Thanks.
NELSON: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.