Egypt`s Armed Forces released a statement midday Monday that spurred a flurry of divergent reactions from supporters and opponents of President Mohamed Morsi, a day after rallies drew millions to the streets calling on him to step down.
Protesters camped at Rabaa al-Adawiya in Nasr City since Friday in support of Morsi remained defiant, vowing to protect his legitimacy.
At the same moment, anti-Morsi protesters flooded the streets in an instantaneous sort of celebration of the news, filling up Tahrir Square and the area around Ettehadiya Presidential Palace as well as main areas in governorates around the country.
On the anniversary of his first year in office, Morsi faced unprecedented resistance to his presidency by Egyptians who heeded the calls of a campaign dubbed Tamarod, or Rebel.
Millions of protesters took to the streets Sunday nationwide in numbers not seen before, airing a varied list of grievances against the president, the party from which he hails and the Muslim Brotherhood group with which it is associated. Their demands mainly centered upon Morsi ceding power, with some preferring a civilian-led transition through some sort of forced consensus and others calling on the military to intervene directly.
By Monday, the Armed Forces released a statement that gave an indication of which path the next days will follow, warning political groups the military would intervene if they do not reach a solution to the ongoing stalemate in Egypt.
"The Armed Forces repeats its call to respond to the people`s demands and gives everyone a forty-eight-hour deadline to carry the burden of these historic circumstances. [The Armed Forces] will not tolerate anyone doing less than what is needed to carry their responsibility," the statement read.
The statement added that the Armed Forces would resort to announcing a road map for the future as part of its responsibility and in respect to the demands of the people, if political groups fail to solve the stalemate.
At Rabaa al-Adawiya, reactions to the statement varied, as most protesters voiced confidence that the army would side with what they viewed as legitimacy, while others were waiting for Morsi`s next move.
Abdel Moez al-Sayed from Sharqiya says so far there have been varying opinions regarding the army`s statement, but most are awaiting for a presidential address to clarify the matter.
He is confident, however, that the army will "support legitimacy."
He said there is a general sense of determination to continue down the path with Morsi and protect legitimacy, "even if it leads to bloodshed."
He maintained that "whoever came to power through the ballot box has to leave through the ballot box," and laments the opposition`s reluctance to engage in dialogue with Morsi, adding that his supporters will not allow "thugs" to rule the country.
Protesters leading the chants on the stage prayed for God to "cleanse Egypt," then chanted, "the army and the people are one hand."
The same chant resounded in Tahrir Square as several military helicopters flew overhead in formation, carrying Egyptian flags wafting beneath them to the roar of the crowds.
The mood was equally jubilant at the palace. Nabil Sobhy, a retired army general, said he felt confident that the army is not interested in a political role. He said people put their trust in Morsi to lead the transitional period, but he deviated.
"You can never trust a group [the Muslim Brotherhood] to lead a country, Morsi did not listen to anyone but his people," he said, adding that Morsi refused to be part of a national dialogue with other political powers because defense minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi initiated it.
Sobhy said the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) would never rule the country again and the 2011 experience was an exception. He added that SCAF fulfilled its promise and handed over power to a civilian president.
On the flip side, and somewhere in between celebration and defiance, a group of activists and youth who have participated in the many phases of the revolution were more than wary of another transitional period led by the army. Their reactions in the streets and on social media were somber, and they were quick to remind people of the violations the SCAF committed during its post-Mubarak rule.
At Ettehadiya, Ozoris Saleh said today`s statement from the army is reminiscent of the 1952 Revolution, when the army forced King Farouk to step down based on the people`s will due to abundant corruption.
He is also confident that SCAF will not take power again, but said whoever takes office has to be "a military man" capable of leading the transition period.
Saleh said the military`s experience in leading the country in 2011 was an exception, but if it forms a presidential council today, it will not allow for any crises.
He maintained that Islamists are part of the Egyptian political scene and cannot be excluded, so long as their participation is "logical," adding that their hunger for power is what led to their demise.
[This article was originally published on Mada Masr.]