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Standoff in Egypt

Last night, the Egyptian president wrote this on his official Twitter account:

    “President Mohamed Morsi asserts his grasp on constitutional legitimacy and rejects any attempt to deviate from it, and calls on the armed forces to withdraw their warning and refuses to be dicatated to internally or externally.”

The warning referred to was an ultimatum to President Morsi that if he and opposition forces were unable to reach a negotiated settlement by 3:00 p.m. Egyptian time today — a deadline that has already lapsed as I write this — they would step in and impose their own “political road map” for Egypt, including the forced resignation of the president, the installation of the head of the Supreme Court as interim president, an interim government of civilian technocrats, suspension of the constitution until it is rewritten, and new elections for the presidency and parliament within nine months to a year.

In response to Morsi’s refusal of their ultimatum, the armed forces today posted a message entitled “Final Hours” to their Facebook page:

    “We swear to God that we will sacrifice even our blood for Egypt and its people, to defend them against any terrorist, radical or fool.”

The message went on to quote the military’s top officer, General Abdul Fattah el-Sisi, as saying, “It is more honorable for us to die than to have the people of Egypt terrorized or threatened.”

Can this story possibly have a happy ending? If your goal is simply to get the Islamists out of power, perhaps it will. Reports are that top leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood are already being placed under house arrest. But if your idea of democracy is broad, inclusive government representing all sectors of society, validated at the ballot box, resulting in negotiated solutions in which principled opponents can preserve their mutual respect, this isn’t looking so good.

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