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Morsi Flees as Protesters Storm Palace

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi is reportedly on the run from thousands of protesters who stormed the presidential palace in Cairo, Reuters reports:

Officers fired teargas at up to 10,000 demonstrators angered by Mursi’s drive to hold a referendum on a new constitution on December 15. Some broke through police lines around his palace and protested next to the perimeter wall.

The crowds had gathered nearby in what organizers had dubbed “last warning” protests against Mursi, who infuriated opponents with a November 22 decree that expanded his powers. “The people want the downfall of the regime,” the demonstrators chanted.  . . .

Mursi ignited a storm of unrest in his bid to prevent a judiciary still packed with appointees of ousted predecessor Hosni Mubarak from derailing a troubled political transition.

It’s a rare moment of triumph for Egypt’s embattled liberals and secularists. Since the Egyptian revolution began, the biggest losers have been the liberal alliance and the biggest winners have been the democratically emboldened Islamists. Initially, the army seemed poised to maintain its decades-old grip on power and ensure that neither the liberals or the Islamists gained too much power. But the Islamists have grown stronger, and the “liberals” (a mix of actual liberals, secular people, conservative Christians who fear the Islamists, and old regime elements with their own agenda) have steadily weakened.

The army, perhaps influenced by the increasingly religious tone of many officers as well as by its calculation that the liberals are weak allies, has looked to create something like a duopoly of power with the Islamists. The liberals and their allies are trying to push back against this budding alliance, and it will be interesting to see how the army responds to the new developments in Cairo.

Despite today’s demonstration, there is little chance that the liberals can take control of the country, especially if the military will not back them against the Muslim Brotherhood. But they may be able to level the score a bit and remind people that, while they may be weaker than the other two elements of the Egyptian power structure, they haven’t completely faded away.

Watch this one closely, folks. This is a real revolution: The shape of the Egyptian state is up for grabs and Egyptian society doesn’t really know what it wants or where it is headed. History is unfolding in real time. (But we still think the Islamists are in the lead.)

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