The Egyptian military has given President Mohammed Morsi 48 hours to reach a solution to country-wide mass demonstrations, effectively calling for the leader’s ouster on the anniversary of his election. Their ultimatum on Monday counts as a serious blow for Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood allies — one that could have serious consequences for their control of the government. As the clock ticks down on the military-imposed deadline, it is still unclear how they will address the situation, with no official comment yet from the presidency on its plans. In fact, the only public acknowledgement of the military’s announcement by the president so far has been one, vague Facebook post; an undated photo posted to Morsi’s official Facebook page shortly after the military’s announcement showed the leader and his Prime Minister Hisham Qandil meeting with the head of the armed forces, General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the military official responsible for Monday’s ultimatum. The caption of the photo provided no further details on the meeting — not even confirming whether it took place after the announcement of the military’s ultimatum.
Aside from the notable absence of any actual information, the photo is remarkable for its striking contrast to the tone of the ominous-sounding and authoritative military announcement and the general political tumult of recent days. All three figures are not only smiling, but appear relaxed as they converse around a table. The composition of the photo, with al-Sisi perched attentively on a couch facing the president, also leaves no question about who is in charge — the military leader is clearly the president’s subordinate.
Morsi has been known to use social media to dodge public appearances at politically inconvenient times. This posting, coming in the midst of the greatest challenge to his leadership thus far, goes beyond just another attempt to stall for time, however. The Brotherhood’s willful disconnect from Egypt’s political reality is one of its opponents major charges against their leadership of the government. Their sole response to the crisis so far could not be better evidence of that. If this photo is anything to go by, it appears they will continue to follow a strategy of denial, posturing authoritatively in public while simultaneously attempting to do what they can to salvage their own standing with the military behind the scenes.