Egypt’s President-elect, Mohamed Morsi
Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood candidate, Mohamed Morsi, who spent time in jail under former president, Hosni Mubarak, was Sunday declared the country’s first post-revolution president, prompting a sense of mild relief from a wider world worried about a protracted political standoff in the Arab world’s most populous country.
In a historic announcement that finally installs a successor to Mubarak 16 months after he was ousted, Morsi was given 51.7 per cent of the vote in recent presidential elections – more than 13m votes – to 48.3 per cent for his rival, Ahmed Shafiq.
Turnout in the June 16-17 poll was put at 51 per cent, the guardian.co.uk reported.
The election commission’s verdict on the second round of voting was repeatedly delayed, raising fears that the military cabal that has ruled Egypt during its messy transition might be planning another ruse to extend its pre-eminence.
When the final announcement came – after a dense 45-minute preamble from the election chief, Farouk Sultan – it instantly rippled through Tahrir square, setting off fireworks, flag-waving and chants of Allahu Akbar. “Say! Don’t fear! The military must go!” crowds chanted.
“We got to this moment because of the blood of the martyrs of the revolution,” said Morsi’s spokesman Ahmed Abdel-Attie. “Egypt will start a new phase in its history.”
It is the first time Egypt will be headed by an Islamist, and the first time a freely elected civilian has come to power in the country.
The incoming president assumes office after a turbulent few weeks that have left Egypt’s transition in disarray, with parliament being dissolved by the supreme court and a military-issued constitutional declaration that severely limits presidential powers.
Both sides quarrelled over tactics in the wake of the polls closing. The Muslim Brotherhood announced Morsi as the winner six hours after voting ended, having tabulated the results from the 13,000 polling stations.
The Shafiq campaign responded angrily, claiming its candidate was actually the one leading the race. The supreme council of the armed forces (Scaf), Egypt’s ruling military leadership, waded in, criticising the Brotherhood for its “unjustifiable” premature announcement.
Meanwhile, talk of backroom negotiations between the Muslim Brotherhood and Scaf was confirmed by the group’s deputy head, Khairat al-Shater, as the two sides traded barbs over the country’s political future. The Muslim Brotherhood held a press conference on Friday in conjunction with liberal forces, during which it attempted to mollify its critics.
Morsi will have much to occupy his first few days of office, encumbered by the overreach of the generals and the divisive nature of Egyptian politics.
“The symbolism of a presidential election victory, particularly for Morsi, will be an achievement in and of itself,” a fellow at the Century Foundation thinktank Mike Hanna, told the guardian.co.uk.
Tens of thousands of protesters mainly comprising Muslim Brotherhood supporters had been stationed in Tahrir square since last Tuesday, objecting to the court ruling that dissolved the Muslim Brotherhood-dominated parliament the day before the runoff between Shafiq and Morsi.
As polling stations closed the following day, Scaf issued a new constitutional declaration that gave the military far-ranging powers in executive decisions as well as the detainment of civilians.
Also in the balance is the fate of the country’s permanent constitution, which has also reverted to the remit of the generals, having been wrestled from the Islamist factions in parliament. The constituent assembly tasked with drafting the constitution is under pressure to deliver quickly, or the military will take over the entire process.
Such a scenario will make for an impossible setting for “thoughtful governance or reform,” Hanna said, “If the electoral shifts seen in the first round of the presidential elections are any indication, voter patience and allegiance is quite limited.”