Update: The ultimatum has passed, amidst reports that the Egyptian military has moved into state television stations and continues to meet with political and religious leaders to lay out its next steps in the crisis.
With mere hours left before a 48-hour ultimatum issued by Egypt’s military to President Mohamed Morsi, Egyptians–and the world–await what happens next. On Tuesday evening, Morsi demanded that the military withdraw its ultimatum to the country’s politicians to resolve the ongoing political crisis. Meanwhile, the military met with opposition leader and Nobel laureate Mohamed ElBaradei, who backed their intervention.
Morsi, who led the Muslim Brotherhood to power a year ago, is facing calls for his resignation after using his brief term in office to aggrandize power under his country’s new constitution. The U.S. has refused to join calls for him to step down, and discouraged the protests, with President Barack Obama defending Morsi’s 2012 election as “legitimate.” Obama called Morsi on Tuesday to urge him to talk with the opposition.
The military’s ultimatum exacerbated the crisis, suggesting that it already exercised some measure of control, and that the country’s politicians ultimately answered to its authority. Morsi, in turn, escalated the confrontation by vowing to die to defend his Muslim Brotherhood government, and demanding that the military back down–a demand that, if complied with, would likely be followed by a round of senior-level military purges.
With the ultimatum set to expire at 4:30 p.m. local time (10:30 a.m. EDT in the U.S.), the confrontation has become, for both sides, a matter of political and perhaps physical survival. Several of Morsi’s ministers have resigned. Dozens have already been killed and injured in street clashes, and the millions who have poured into the streets in the larges political demonstrations in history say they will not leave until Morsi does.