But even as the dust settled in Tahrir, a complex battery of challenges remained — first for the military that has once again assumed responsibility for the nation’s direction, and then for whoever is bold enough to take on the job that proved so disastrous for Morsi.
Egypt’s economy is in tatters. Nearly a quarter of the work force is unemployed, and roughly half the population lives on less than $2 a day. The country owes billions of dollars in debt, its foreign currency reserves nearly exhausted. Prices are spiking, and shortages loom.
“Gasoline. Traffic. Bread,” said Ahmed Fadel Abuzeid, an electrician who camped in Tahrir to bring down Morsi. “We never had the power cuts before. And we never used to have these prices.”
There are no easy fixes. Many Egyptians turned against the Muslim Brotherhood-backed Morsi because of his poor stewardship of the economy, and experts say much of that blame was well-deserved. But Morsi also inherited the legacy of an authoritarian regime that over decades had rotted from within: a bloated bureaucracy, a costly and inefficient subsidy system and layer upon layer of corruption.
“Whether it was going to be the Muslim Brotherhood or not the Muslim Brotherhood, whoever was going to govern Egypt was really going to have their hands full,” said Joshua Stacher, an Egypt expert and political scientist at Kent State University in Ohio.
Any solution, economists say, will require considerable pain.
“In order to move from this stage to a stage in which we achieve economic growth will require measures that will not be popular,” said Amirah El-Haddad, a professor of economics at the American University in Cairo.
Egypt’s next leader could well be beset by many of the same problems that doomed the last. A day after Morsi’s fall, a virtually unknown judge took over the presidency on an interim basis. But few seemed eager to make a run for a post that will be contested in elections the military has promised but has not yet scheduled.
“I don’t know anyone in his right mind,” said Egypt’s foreign minister Mohamed Kamel Amr, provoking laughter from his aides. “Wait, wait — I’m joking with you,” he added. “Don’t put that.”
The economy won’t be the only problem confronting whoever next rules Egypt. The constitution that was ratified under Morsi has now been nullified, meaning this highly polarized nation must start from scratch in developing a set of common laws and principles.