CAIRO — Egypt’s first democratically elected president was ousted Wednesday by the military after barely a year in office, felled by the same kind of popular revolt that first brought him to power in the Arab Spring.
The armed forces announced it would install a temporary civilian government to replace Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, who denounced the action as a “full coup” by the generals. They also suspended the Islamist-drafted constitution and called for new elections.
Millions of anti-Morsi protesters in cities around the country erupted in delirious scenes of joy after the televised announcement by the army chief. Fireworks burst over crowds in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, where men and women danced, shouting, “God is great” and “Long live Egypt.”
“Don’t ask me if I am happy, just look around you at all those people, young and old, they are all happy,” said 25-year-old protester Mohammed Nageh, shouting to be heard at Tahrir.
“For the first time, people have really won their liberty.”
Fearing a violent reaction by Morsi’s Islamist supporters, the military sent troops and armored vehicles into streets of Cairo and elsewhere, surrounding Islamist rallies. The head of the political wing of the political wing of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood was arrested.
Clashes quickly erupted in several provincial cities when Islamists opened fire on police, with at least nine killed in the battles, security officials said.
The army’s move is the second time in Egypt’s 2 1/2 years of turmoil that it has forced out the country’s leader. In the first, it pushed out autocrat Hosni Mubarak after the massive uprising against its rule.
Its new move came after a stunning four-day anti-Morsi revolt that brought protests even larger than those of 2011, fueled by public anger that Morsi was giving too much power to his Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists and had failed to tackle the country’s mounting economic woes.
This time, however, its removal of an elected figure could be more explosive. Beyond fears over violence, even some protesters are concerned whether an army-installed administration can lead to real democracy.
In Washington, President Barack Obama urged Egypt’s military to “move quickly” to return authority to an elected civilian government.