CAIRO (AP) — On the eve of the 60th anniversary of a coup that started decades of military rule, Egypt's new president said Sunday that it failed to bring about democracy. He credited last year's uprising with correcting the path.
Mohammed Morsi, the country's first freely elected civilian and Islamist president, delivered the message at a time when his Muslim Brotherhood patrons are struggling to wrest authority from the country's military, which has been at the center of power since the coup 60 years ago.
The generals, who ruled Egypt for 16 months after last year's uprising, took legislative powers from the Brotherhood after parliament was dissolved. Just days before Morsi was sworn in last month, they issued a decree that also gave themselves budgetary authority and control over the process of drafting a new constitution.
Morsi said the 1952 coup's ambitions failed in the last three decades, a reference to the reign of Hosni Mubarak, who was ousted in the 2011 popular uprising.
"It stumbled in many of its goals ... especially in trying for democracy in the last 30 years due to corruption and fraud," he said.
He added that "the second revolution in Jan 25, 2011", when the uprising against Mubarak began, corrected the path.
Egypt's military released its own statement online Sunday, congratulating the people for the 1952 revolution, also known as the Free Officers Coup.
The military has been Egypt's de facto ruler since army officers first seized power in 1952. Its first four presidents, ending with Mubarak, all came from the military. With conscription of men in force since the 1960s and four wars against Israel between 1948 and 1973, there is hardly an Egyptian family without a male who has military experience or has at least one member in active service.
Morsi praised the Egyptian army for its role in the revolt.
"The great Egyptian army sided with the people's choice and backed the building of the second republic on the basis of real freedom for all," he said in his televised speech.
He noted in his speech that in 1952, Egyptians succeeded in overthrowing the British-backed King Farouk with the intention of bringing about social equality. He said Egyptians claimed a stake in their future after decades of French and British rule.
But he added that Egypt should learn from the past and be aware of both the coup's failures and successes.
"This moment is cause for more effort, more work and more sacrifice," Morsi said.
Some activists have spoken out against celebrating on July 23, which is a national holiday in Egypt, and are instead calling for it to be a day of protests against military rule.
Since the 1952 coup, the military has acquired vast economic interests — giant construction companies, farms, water-bottling facilities and a nationwide chain of gas stations— as well as control of top government posts. Civilian oversight has been one of the demands of the revolutionary groups.
"If someone wants to go out on July 23, they should ask for the end of military rule and not go out and celebrate the military junta's revolution and the continuation of military rule," wrote Ahmed Maher, one of the founders of the activist April 6 movement, which helped engineer the uprising against Mubarak.