Sisi claims Morsy overthrow supported legitimacy

Defense minister and armed forces chief, General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has reiterated claims the army's intervention in politics on 3 July sided with popular legitimacy, despite claims by supporters of Mohamed Morsy that the move represented a military coup.

“The Armed Forces had decided, without any reservation, to be at the service of the people and to empower their free will,” Sisi said in a speech to army generals at al-Galaa Theatre in Cairo on Sunday, later published on the military spokesperson Ali Ahmed Ali's official Facebook page.

“The Armed Forces receive [commands] from the people rather than dictating them," he said.

Sisi claimed certain “circumstances” pushed the army back into politics, after the turbulent period of Supreme Council of Military Affairs (SCAF) rule, when the people felt the military could restore balance.

"The Armed Forces never sought, nor requested, that task and remains devoted to the people," he said.

Sisi noted that the military had backed the people's will when Mohamed Morsy was elected president one year ago.

However, he added, “political decision-making began to stumble, and the Armed Forces believed that any correction or change had only one source of legitimacy: the Egyptian people, who own such a decision."

The general claimed the army had provided political leadership with advice on a number of occasions, and also voiced reservations at times. However, he said, the military remained committed to the “legitimacy of the ballot box."

Sisi, speaking during a meeting with leaders of the armed forces, said the army head respected legitimacy following presidential elections last year, which Morsy won, but that the people later withdrew that legitimacy following months of accusations of creeping authoritarianism and economic mismanagement.

Sisi revealed that the army had suggested Morsy field a referendum to satisfy growing popular demand.

Two delegations, one led by Prime Minister Hesham Qandil, had asked Morsy to hold a referendum on early presidential elections, the original demand of 30 June protests, Sisi said.

The suggestion was flatly rejected, he said.

“Since the people were concerned that the idea of statehood would be used against the people and their aspirations, the army had to make a choice,” Sisi said, adding that the intensity of political polarization and the “inability of [different] parties to fulfill their responsibilities” prompted the army to intervene.

“It is the people alone that give, review and withdraw legitimacy,” he said, 

Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm