Editor's note: H.A. Hellyer is a non-resident fellow at the Brookings Institution and ISPU. A writer on Egyptian politics, he held senior posts at Gallup, and the University of Warwick.
(CNN) -- Was the ousting of democratically-elected Mohamed Morsy in Egypt a coup? Answering that question is clear, but not without a very clear qualification. It is a popularly legitimate coup -- and focusing on it is now far less important than what comes next.
Of course, there is an argument against calling it a coup, which few seem to be considering at present. A coup is usually understood to be an action that replaces the authority of a civilian regime by a military one. If what happened in Egypt is considered to be a coup, it takes for granted that there was indeed a civilian regime that had absolute authority over the institutions of the state, and a military under complete civilian authority. That assertion in the context of the Egyptian political arena is questionable.
One should keep in mind that throughout Egypt's modern history, the Egyptian military has had overwhelming public support. That continued through the military transitional governing period of 2011-2012. Even at the height of anti-military sentiment, Gallup recorded that public confidence in the institution remained well over 85%, and at some points exceeded 90%. That figure may be less now, as pro-Morsy supporters may feel resentment towards the military for having removed him from power -- but it is still likely to be at least over 80%.
The Egyptian military is an institution in which most Egyptian families have a relative within, owing to conscription, and the historical narrative taught in Egyptian schools is extremely positive, as is the representation of it on state media. This has never changed.
Over the past year, Morsy and his Muslim Brotherhood movement made many mistakes, and tried to implement some truly abysmal policies that could never be considered to be in the interests of the Egyptian revolution. Indeed, his harshest critics argue that instead of reforming the 'deep state', he simply tried to use it for partisan interests. One of his most strategic miscalculations, however, was to assume that after six weeks of a military establishment, Morsy had managed to place the military under his control. Morsy never removed Field Marshal Tantawi -- the military reconstituted its leadership on its own, appointing General Abdel-Fatah El-Sisi to the helm. The military sees itself as an autonomous establishment, and never considered itself to be under Morsy's control.