The military has been a central pillar of the Egyptian state since 1952, when the “Free Officers” movement overthrew the monarchy. All four of Egypt’s post-revolutionary presidents were former military officers, and more than half of the country’s 29 governors have military backgrounds as well.
The military runs a wide variety of businesses – hotels, construction firms, factories – a portfolio which gives it control of a double-digit percentage of Egypt’s economy. That means billions of dollars in annual revenue, an economic base that has propelled some senior members of the army into the ranks of the Egyptian elite.
It is a deeply entrenched interest, in other words, a source of wealth for some officers and employment for hundreds of thousands of Egyptians. The arrangement lasted for decades because the country’s political leadership is so closely linked to the armed forces.
“The military has been a primary beneficiary of this political order and have not had to intervene overtly in politics until now because the system worked relatively well under a brother officer,” said Steven Cook, an expert on Egypt at the US-based Council on Foreign Relations.
And so the prospect of a civilian-led government has perhaps made the army uneasy.