“He has moved up people from within the organizations and people who seem well qualified for the position,” said Michele Dunne, director of the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East. “It was pretty well thought out.”
But there was another reason the military chiefs who served in powerful posts under deposed leader Hosni Mubarak may have been willing to step down, said Zeinab Abul-Magd, a historian at the American University in Cairo who has studied the military and has discussed the situation with several mid-level officers over the past two days.
In an on-going power struggle, Egypt's new Islamist president forced out the head of the military. In addition, President Mohammed Morsi also cancelled new constitutional amendments that had given top generals wide powers.
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“There was a lot of discontent against them” in the ranks, she said, referring to the ousted military chief, Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, and his deputy, Gen. Sami Anan. “Tantawi and Anan left quietly because they made huge mistakes.”
The vaunted image of the military took a hit during the 17 months the generals ruled the country after Mubarak stepped down in February 2011. Although the armed forces remain popular, Tantawi and other military leaders who became suddenly visible were vilified in street protests and on social media.
With those figures gone, Morsi and the Brotherhood are all but certain to face increased scrutiny and criticism. Public office is a heavy burden in a country with a high unemployment rate, crippled infrastructure and a suddenly empowered, politically active population.
“They have sole control, but they will be held accountable if they don’t prove worthy,” said Rashad Abdou, a professor of finance at Cairo University who worries that the Brotherhood’s sudden consolidation of power could dissuade investors from coming to Egypt. “They could be removed in the next elections.”
If Morsi ultimately emerges as an unlikely strongman, he will be following in the footsteps of some of his predecessors. Anwar Sadat, who led Egypt from 1970 to 1981, and Mubarak, who followed him, both defied early expectations of the kind of leadership they would bring to the presidency.
“Morsi wanted his full authorities,” said Mohamed Abdul Quddus, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood who works at a journalism organization. “He doesn’t know diplomacy and is known to not accept middle-ground solutions.”
Henry Shull and Ingy Hassieb contributed to this report.