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With the overthrow of Morsi's predecessor, Hosni Mubarak, still fresh in many people's minds, the question becomes what this coup, of a democratically elected president, means for Egypt's transition.
NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson talked with All Things Considered host Robert Siegel about some of what she is seeing from the ground in Cairo.
What more did the defense minister say about next steps?
"He repeated over and over that this was something that was meant to protect the will of the people, that everyone in this society would have a say in key institutions, that the youth movement that basically helped bring this about and that opposition groups and everyone would have a say. He also said they would be protecting the freedom of speech. It's kind of interesting to note that right after he said that, all the TV stations that would have lent support to former President Morsi went off the air."
What can you tell us about the leader of the interim administration?
"He's the head of the Supreme Constitutional Court, just appointed yesterday. His name is Adly Mahmoud Mansour, he's 67, with a law degree from Cairo University, and has been a judge for well over 40 years, some of that time during the Mubarak era, so he has that link to the past that the Islamist president and his supporters reject. People who know him have told state media that he is somebody with no political affiliations and will protect the will of the people."
On pro-Morsi gatherings
"They have not been that large that I have seen, certainly not as large as the other ones. It's also difficult to get to them; a lot of these men have been armed, with batons and worse, so it's difficult to approach them to talk to them. It hasn't really been a safe situation. But they are out there in force."
Robert Siegel also spoke with Abdul Mawgoud Rageh Dardery, former Egyptian parliamentarian, member of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the foreign affairs spokesman for Morsi's Freedom and Justice Party, the brotherhood's political arm. He also talked about the challenges ahead for Egypt and its relationship with the U.S.
Why do today's events matter to the U.S.?
"The ideals of the United States of America is to support democracy everywhere. It's not to be silent when there is a coup d'etat against democracy. The United States has interests in the area. The downfall of legitimacy gives no one — there will be no rule of law. It will be a jungle. And extremism that we tried very much to moderate in the past now will say, look what did we do to democracy. And that is the challenge, that is the fear, that there will be so many voices — and not only in Egypt but throughout the Arab world — because that was a positive experiment of including Islamism in a democratic format. Now, once the democratic format fails, extremist voices will come and say, look what we did to you and we're not going to go this way. So I expect very difficult times ahead of us."
Did Morsi make mistakes that caused his ouster?
"I think [Morsi] did make some mistakes, and that is highly expected in a transition. What do we do in this case? We allow him a chance to go on for the rest of his term. After his term [ends], we either vote him again for another term or kick him out. And that is the only way that I can see to bring peace and understanding among Egyptians because it becomes a vicious cycle. Every time people move to the streets, demand a change of a president, then another coup d'etat happens. Then it becomes a vicious cycle of violence."
Will the military ultimately be in charge regardless of who the president is?
"That is the feeling now, because this is what we see in front of their eyes. Then election does not become an option and the opposite for election is violence. And violence breeds violence. And in violence no one wins; we all lose."
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