Islamist Mohammed Morsi was declared the winner Sunday in Egypt’s first free presidential election in history, closing the tumultuous first phase of a democratic transition and opening a new struggle with the still-dominant military rulers who recently stripped the presidency of most of its powers.
In Tahrir Square, the birthplace of the uprising that ousted autocratic President Hosni Mubarak, joyous Morsi supporters wept and kneeled on the ground in prayer. They danced, set off fireworks and released doves in the air with Morsi’s picture attached in celebrations not seen in the square since Mubarak was forced out on Feb. 11, 2011.
Many are looking now to see if Morsi will try to take on the military and wrestle back the powers they took from his office just one week ago. Thousands vowed to remain in Tahrir to demand that the ruling generals reverse their decision.
“I pledge to be a president who serves his people and works for them,” Morsi said on his official web page. “I will not betray God in defending your rights and the rights of this nation.” He was scheduled to address the nation Sunday night in his first speech after being declared president.
On the sidelines of the political drama are the liberal and secular youth groups that drove the uprising against Mubarak, left to wonder whether Egypt has taken a step towards becoming an Islamist state. Some grudgingly supported Morsi in the face of Ahmed Shafiq, who was Mubarak’s last prime minister, while others boycotted the vote.
Morsi will now have to reassure them that he represents the whole country, not just Islamists, and will face enormous challenges after security and the economy badly deteriorated in the transition period.
Pro-democracy leader Mohammed ElBaradei urged unity after the results were announced.
“It is time we work all as Egyptians as part of a national consensus to build Egypt that is based on freedom and social justice,” he wrote on his Twitter account.
The elections left the nation deeply polarized with one side backing Shafiq, who promised to provide stability and prevent Egypt from becoming a theocracy. Because of his military career, many saw him as the military’s preferred candidate.
In the other camp are those eager for democratic change and backers of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood who were persecuted, jailed and banned under Mubarak but now find themselves one of the two most powerful groups in Egypt.
The other is the ruling military council that took power after the uprising and is headed by Mubarak’s defense minister of 20 years.
Just one week ago, at the moment polls were closing in the runoff election, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) issued constitutional amendments that stripped the president’s office of most of its major powers. The ruling generals made themselves the final arbiters over the most pressing issues still complicating the transition— such as writing the constitution, legislating, passing the state budget— and granted military police broad powers to detain civilians.
“I am happy the Brotherhood won because now the revolution will continue on the street against both of them, the Brotherhood and the SCAF,” said Lobna Darwish, an activist who has boycotted the elections.
Morsi, the 60-year old U.S.-trained engineer, narrowly defeated Shafiq with 51.7 percent of the vote versus 48.3, by a margin of only 800,000 votes, the election commission said. Turnout was 51 percent.
Also, a few days before that constitutional declaration, a court dissolved the freely elected parliament, which is dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, leaving the military now in charge of legislating.
“The revolution passed an important test,”said Yasser Ali, a spokesman for Morsi’s campaign. “But the road is still long.”
Another Morsi’s spokesman Ahmed Abdel-Attie said words cannot describe the “joy” in this historic moment.
“We got to this moment because of the blood of the martyrs of the revolution,” he said at a news conference after the results were announced. “Egypt will start a new phase in its history.”
This is the first time modern Egypt will be headed by an Islamist and by a freely elected civilian. The country’s last four presidents over the past six decades have all came from the ranks of the military.
“Congratulations because this means the end of the Mubarak state,” said Shady el-Ghazali Harb, a prominent activist who was among the leaders of the protests in January and February last year.
The results of the elections were delayed for four days amid accusations of manipulation and foul play by both sides, raising political tensions in Egypt to a fever pitch.
The delay plunged the country into nerve-wrecking anticipation and pushed tensions to a fever pitch. Parallel mass rallies by Shafiq and Morsi supporters were held in different parts of Cairo and cut-throat media attacks by supporters of both swarmed TV shows. In the hours before the announcement of the winner, the fear of new violence was palpable.
Heavy security was deployed around the country, especially outside state institutions, in anticipation of possible violence. Workers were sent home early from jobs, jewelry stores closed for fear of looting and many were stocking up on food and forming long lines at cash machines in case new troubles began.
Farouk Sultan, the head of the commission, described the elections as “an important phase in the end of building our nascent democratic experience.”
Sultan went to pains to explain the more than 400 complaints presented by the two candidates challenging counting procedures and alleging attempts of rigging. It appeared to be an attempt to discredit claims that the election commission was biased in favor of Shafiq, the candidate perceived as backed by the military rulers.
Brotherhood members and experts said the results were used a bargaining chip between the generals and the Brotherhood over the parameters of what appears to be a new power sharing agreement.
The country’s new constitution is not written and the authorities of the president are not clear.
The country is deeply divided between supporters of the Brotherhood, liberals and leftists who also decided to back them as a way to stand up to the military, and other secular forces that fear the domination of the Brotherhood, and grew critical of it in the past year. The small margin of victory for Morsi also sets him for a strong opposition from supporters of Shafiq, viewed as a representative of the old regime.
Naguib Sawiris, a Coptic Christian business tycoon who joined a liberal bloc in voicing opposition to the Muslim Brotherhood a day before the results were announced, said that he expects the new president to send a reassuring message to Egypt’s Christian minority who represents around 10 percent of the population of 85 million .
“There are fears of imposing an Islamic state, and Egypt becomes an Islamic state where Christians don’t have same rights,” Sawiris told the private TV station CBC. Morsi “is required to prove the opposite…We don’t want speeches or promises but in the coming period, it is about taking action…He was not our choice but we are accepting it is a democratic choice.”
Hamdeen Sabahi, a leftist presidential candidate who came in a surprising third place in the first round of elections, asked Morsi to live up to his pledges to form a national coalition government and appoint presidential aides from different groups “that express the largest national consensus.”
Khaled Abdel-Hamid, a leading leftist politician, said Morsi must fight to get his powers back or he will lose any popular support he may have garnered.
“If he fights to get his power back, we will support him. But if does fight back, then he is settling for siding with the military,” he said.
Protesters in Tahrir have said they will not leave the square, in which they have been holding a sit-in for nearly a week, until Morsi can restore his rightful powers.
Here are the profiles of both Morsi and Shafiq
Ahmed Shafiq, Profile
Just a year after he was forced to resign as Egypt’s prime minister because of his links to the government of the ousted President Hosni Mubarak, Ahmed Shafiq hopes to return to political life as head of state.
If Mr Shafiq succeeds, he will become the latest in a succession of military men to rule since the 1952 Young Officers’ Revolution.
A former fighter pilot, like Mr Mubarak himself, Mr Shafiq served as commander of the Egyptian air force from 1996 to 2002.
He then went on to become the country’s first civil aviation minister, earning a reputation for administrative competence and efficiency.
Mr Shafiq, 70, denies being backed by the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (Scaf). However, he argues that his knowledge of the military means he can ensure a successful handover of power.
With many Egyptians worried by the deterioration in security since last year’s uprising, Mr Shafiq attracts voters who see the military as the only institution that can prevent complete turmoil.
In the first round of the presidential election in May, he drew support from state employees and their families as well as influential businessmen and members of the former ruling NDP party.
Some Coptic Christians, particularly in Upper Egypt, voted for him as a bulwark against rising Islamist influence.
He finished with 23% of the vote, a close second behind Mohammed Mursi, the chairman of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP). The two men are due to go through to a run-off for the election on 16 and 17 June.
Among young Egyptians who took part in the uprising, the prospect of Mr Shafiq taking over as president incites anger and resentment. They see him as a counter-revolutionary.
After the declaration of the first round’s official results, a fire was started in storage buildings at Mr Shafiq’s campaign headquarters in Cairo. Later in the same week, there were attacks on campaign offices in provincial towns.
Hundreds of protesters also gathered in Tahrir Square and in Alexandria, denouncing Mr Shafiq as a “faloul”, a remnant of the old regime.
Mr Shafiq was selected to be prime minister on 29 January during the last days of the Mubarak presidency.
His relationship with the protesters in Tahrir Square worsened as he ignored their demands and offered to send them sweets.
His slow response to one of the darkest days of the uprising, the so-called “Battle of the Camel”, in which assailants on horseback and camels attacked the square, is well remembered.
As pressure mounted on the military, Mr Shafiq stayed in his post for just three weeks after the end of the revolution.
Reaching the middle
Ahead of the presidential election’s first round, Mr Shafiq declared that he was the only candidate who could “prevent Egypt descending into a bloodbath”, adding that “those who scare Egyptians from voting for me want a weak president”.
As polling went on there were bitter exchanges between his camp and that of another contender, the former Arab League secretary general, Amr Moussa. It became clear that the former had taken valuable ground over his rival.
He also won in traditional strongholds of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Nile Delta.
The challenge for Mr Shafiq now is reaching out to voters for whom he was not the first choice of candidate.
In a televised address on 26 May, he embraced the task saying: “I’m stretching out my hand to all Egyptians. I accept all dialogues with all politicians from all forces”.
“We are going to start a new era,” he promised. “There is no option to rebuild the old regime.”
Mr Shafiq has stressed that he is the only option to prevent Islamist domination of the parliament and the presidency.
He has warned young Egyptians: “The revolution, which you triggered, has been hijacked and I am obliged to bring its outcome back to your hands.”
Born in 1941 in Cairo, Ahmed Shafiq graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1961. He later completed a master’s degree in military sciences and a PhD in military strategy.
He fought in three wars including the 1973 Arab-Israeli war in which he was a senior fighter pilot under Hosni Mubarak’s command. He is said to have downed two Israeli aircraft.
After leaving the military and diplomatic service, it was widely believed that Mr Mubarak helped set his career path, even creating the post of civil aviation minister, in which he served for a decade.
Mr Shafiq’s accomplishments in this role included restructuring the state-owned airline, EgyptAir, and renovating the nation’s airports.
While many members of the former cabinet have been convicted of corruption, lawsuits filed against Mr Shafiq have not led to charges. He denies any wrongdoing.
Yet a law passed by Egypt’s parliament in April still poses an obstacle to his campaign. This was intended to ban top officials who served under Mr Mubarak in his last decade in power from becoming president.
On 14 June, the Supreme Constitutional Court is due to deliver a ruling on whether the legislation should be allowed to stand.
Although he was not their first choice as presidential candidate, Egypt’s powerful Muslim Brotherhood soon threw its weight behind the chairman of its Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), Mohammed Mursi.
The 60-year-old engineer took 24% of vote in the first round of the election in May, with second place going to Ahmed Shafiq, a former air force chief who served briefly as former President Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister.
Mr Mursi promises to bring “stability security, justice and prosperity” after a year of political upheaval.
He has said that it is time to put into practice the Brotherhood’s famous slogan – “Islam is the solution” – and described its policy plans as having “a moderate Islamic reference”.
Mr Mursi handed in his nomination papers for the presidential race on the last possible day after it emerged that Khairat al-Shater, a millionaire businessman and deputy leader of the Brotherhood, might be prevented from running.
After Mr Shater and other candidates were disqualified, the Brotherhood officially shifted its support to Mr Mursi.
There were doubts over whether the more quietly-spoken man would be able to establish himself among voters.
However Mr Mursi was guaranteed the support of the Brotherhood’s grassroots network and highly organised campaign team. This led the FJP to success in the recent parliamentary elections, winning the biggest number of seats in both the upper and lower houses.
Mr Mursi has struggled to overcome accusations that the Brotherhood wants to monopolise the political scene.
The group decided to field a candidate for the presidency despite earlier promising it would not. It was also criticised for using its parliamentary strength to try to dominate a 100-member assembly drawing up the new constitution.
Mr Mursi argues that the Brotherhood has had to respond to changing realities and “dangers threatening the revolution”.
After protests over the results of the presidential election first round and an attack on Mr Shafiq’s campaign headquarters, Mr Mursi tried to swing the situation to his advantage.
He offered concessions to groups that felt disenfranchised and presented himself as a bulwark against any revival by the Mubarak old guard.
He insisted he wanted to build a “democratic, civil and modern state” that guaranteed the freedom of religion and right to peaceful protest.
Mr Mursi said he would not necessarily choose a prime minister from the largest party in parliament – the FJP – and suggested he would appoint Coptic Christians among his presidential advisers, and even possibly as a vice-president. He said an Islamic dress code would not be enforced.
“The presidency will be an institution,” Mr Mursi declared. “The Superman era is over.”
He has tried to reach out to other reform-minded politicians ahead of the run-off. However, a meeting with the third- and fourth-placed presidential candidates – the leftist, Hamdeen Sabahi, and moderate Islamist, Abdul Moneim Aboul Fotouh – did not produce a deal that would encourage broader support for him.
The Brotherhood’s presidential platform has placed its “Renaissance Project” centre-stage.
t is a comprehensive plan meant to provide solutions for Egypt’s manifold problems: from an overhaul of the economy and security services to dealing with the sanitation problem of rubbish in the streets.
No clear plan has been spelt out for how Mr Mursi would deal with the armed forces, which have been overseeing the political transition.
However, he has said he would consult them over a choice of defence minister and that the military budget would be overseen by parliament.
He has also insisted that he would maintain his independence if elected to office, dismissing the idea that he would take orders from the Brotherhood’s supreme guide and turn Egypt into a theocracy.
On the sensitive subject of Israel, Mr Mursi has said he would abide by the 1979 peace treaty but not meet Israeli officials. He has promised to prioritise the Palestinian issue.
Mohammed Mursi comes from a village in the Nile Delta province of Sharqiya and is married with four children.
He studied Engineering at Cairo University in the 1970s before moving to the United States to complete a PhD.
After returning to Egypt he became head of the engineering department at Zagazig University. He also rose in the ranks of the Muslim Brotherhood and joined its Guidance Bureau.
Mr Mursi served as an independent in the Brotherhood’s parliamentary bloc from 2000 to 2005. He then lost his seat in his home constituency, after a run-off vote that he claimed was rigged.
As an MP, he was occasionally praised for his oratorical performances, for example after a rail disaster in 2002 when he denounced official incompetence.
He was chosen to be a spokesman for the Brotherhood and last year, after the uprising forced Hosni Mubarak to step down, he became chairman of the FJP.
With his calm, measured approach, Mr Mursi tends to chime with the conservative mainstream of the Brotherhood. Many insiders see him as a safe pair of hands.
Associated Press, BBC