Mohammed Morsi Declared Winner Of Egyptian Presidential Election
The candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood is the next President of Egypt, but the political future of Egypt itself remains quite murky.
After delaying the announcement from last Thursday, and a bizarre hour long speech by the head of the country’s elections commission, Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Morsi has been named the winner of the Egyptian Presidential elections:
CAIRO — Election regulators named Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood the winner of Egypt’s first competitive presidential elections, handing the Islamist group a symbolic triumph and a new weapon in its struggle for power with the ruling military council.
After an hourlong speech in which he detailed dozens of specific inquiries down to the ballot-box level, the chairman of the election commission, Farouk Sultan, announced that Mr. Morsi had won 51.7 percent of the runoff vote completed last weekend. The other candidate, the former general Ahmed Shafik, won 48.3 percent.
In Tahrir Square, where hundreds of thousands had gathered to await the result, the confirmation of Mr. Morsi’s win brought instant, rollicking celebration. Fireworks went up over the crowd, which took up a pulsing, deafening chant: “Morsi! Morsi!”
Mr. Morsi now becomes the first Islamist elected to be head of an Arab state. But his victory is an ambiguous milestone in Egypt’s promised transition to democracy after the ouster 16 months ago of President Hosni Mubarak.
After an election that international monitors called credible, the military-led government has recognized an electoral victory by an opponent of military rule over Mr. Shafik, who promised harmony with the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. But Mr. Morsi’s recognition as president does little to resolve the larger standoff between the generals and the Brotherhood over the balance of power over the institutions of government and the future constitution. Under the generals’ plan, Mr. Morsi, 60, will assume an office stripped of almost all authority under a military-issued interim constitution.
Having dissolved the democratically elected and Brotherhood-led Parliament on the eve of the presidential vote, the generals who seized control after Mr. Mubarak’s ouster abrogated their pledge to hand power by June 30, eliciting charges of a new military coup.
After 84 years as an often outlawed secret society struggling in the prisons and shadows of monarchs and dictators, the Brotherhood is now closer than ever to its dream of building a novel Islamist democracy. And its leaders vowed to fight on for the restoration of Parliament regardless of Mr. Morsi’s win.
Although it was clear as early as Monday morning that Mr. Morsi had won more votes than Mr. Shafik, the weeklong delay in the official results stirred widespread fears that the military-led government might seek to name Mr. Shafik as a decisive blow in the generals’ power struggle with the Brotherhood.
Before the results were announced, the capital was as tense Sunday as on any day since the two and a half week revolt that brought down Mr. Mubarak. Army tanks and soldiers were deployed around the election commission, the Parliament and other institutions to prepare for possible violence. Foreign embassies warned their citizens to stay away from downtown. Banks, government offices and schools all closed early to allow students and employees to get off the streets.
His designation as president-elect will hand the Brotherhood and its allies a bully pulpit to use the struggle for power with the military. The Brotherhood has sought to rebuild the partnership with more secular and liberal advocates of democracy that came together in the uprising against Mr. Mubarak, and Brotherhood leaders have vowed not to hold any negotiations with the generals without the participation of the other groups in their so-called “national front.”
But on its own, the Brotherhood’s control of the presidency will do nothing to reduce the calm the fierce polarization of Egyptian society. On Saturday night, a counter protest that reportedly grew to over 10,000 gathered in a neighborhood with a heavy concentration of military personnel to demonstrate in support of the ruling generals, Mr. Shafik and secular government. Mr. Shafik, Mr. Mubarak’s last prime minister, has campaigned with the support of the old ruling party elite as a new strongman who can bring back order after the 16 months of chaos.
Earlier in the day, a group of secular political leaders and lawmakers who call themselves liberals had held a televised news conference to declare their support for the generals and the dissolution of the Brotherhood-led Parliament. The praised the shutdown of parliament as a victory for law and order, citing an unusually rushed court decision announced the day before. (The Brotherhood has respected the ruling but challenged its implementation.)
Indeed, it is kind of hard to see exactly what Morsi and his supporters have won here, at least in the short to medium term. Between the Supreme Court’s dissolution of Parliament and the SCOAF’s assumption of nearly all the important powers that had been granted to the President under the interim Constitution, Morsi will have little actual day-to-day power as President Egypt. He’ll be Head of State, of course, but the real power will still be in the hands of the Generals. In the meantime, Egypt still needs to put together a permanent Constitution and the military will no doubt have an important role in that process as well. As I’ve noted before, the military has been at the pinnacle of Egyptian society and politics since 1952 and it is quite unlikely that they are going to give that status up willingly any time soon.
What this sets the stage for, of course, is the possibility of confrontations between Morsi and his supporters and the military at some point down the road. If the military does become reluctant to give up power to the democratically elected leader of the country, how are the people going to react to that? And, if the people start protesting against like they did January and February 2011, will the military be as reticent to put the protests down with force as they were back then? There’s also the fact that nearly half of the people who did vote (voter turnout for the runoff election was approximately 50% according to the elections commission) voted against Morsi, so it’s not like he has some kind of overwhelming mandate. Also left unresolved is the status of Egypt’s Coptic Christian population, which has often been the target of attack by forces affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. Will Morsi protect them, or victimize them? Finally, of course, there is the question of Israel and the peace treaty. the Muslim Brotherhood has been opposed to the treaty for decades but the military supports it emphatically (largely, no doubt, because they have no desire to get dragged into another conflict with Israelis who are not even more advanced than they were in 1973). There’s no doubt some concern tonight in Jerusalem, and elsewhere, about the future of the Sinai.
The reaction to Morsi’s victory was fairly jubilant in Tahrir Square, which was filled with thousands of Morsi supporters. No doubt the reaction would have been different had the commission declared Shafik the winner, largely because it was already widely believed in Egypt that the military would try to fix the election for him. So in some sense, Egypt likely avoids civil unrest in the short term. In the long term, though, it seems clear that we’ll see some kind of conflict between the military and those who want greater civilian control of the levers of government. How that resolves itself is anybody’s guess.