Egypt’s electoral commission announced Sunday that Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi would be sworn in as president, becoming the Arab world’s first elected Islamist head of state after more than a year of popular uprisings that ousted autocrats and fueled the rise of political Islam in the region.
Although Egypt’s ruling generals blunted the power of the presidency shortly after polls closed last weekend, Morsi’s victory represented a remarkable turn of fortunes. The organization was outlawed and systematically suppressed for decades, including under the three-decade regime of deposed former president Hosni Mubarak.
Election officials said Morsi beat former Mubarak prime minister Ahmed Shafiq, whom he had faced in a runoff. Presidential election commission chief Farouk Sultan said Morsi won by a slim margin, winning almost 52 percent of votes cast.
As soon as the news broke, Brotherhood supporters in Tahrir Square erupted in cheers and fired off a flurry of firecrackers.
A Morsi loss could have generated serious political instability; Brotherhood supporters had vowed to continue their demonstrations if that was the outcome, saying it would have amounted to electoral theft.
But the terms under which Morsi will hold office, and the sway his Islamist supporters will have, remain uncertain. The announcement capped a week of intrigue and rumors about whether the country’s ruling generals were seeking to broker a power-sharing deal with the Brotherhood before signing off on the 60-year-old group’s electoral victory.
Morsi, a U.S.-educated engineer, became the Brotherhood’s candidate after the group’s top choice was disqualified from the race. Morsi will immediately assume a role that was emasculated in a constitutional decree issued by the country’s military leaders shortly after the polls closed on June 17. The document made the incoming president subservient to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which will continue to operate without oversight.
Because the Brotherhood-dominated parliament was recently dissolved by the military after a court ruling, Morsi will remain in the short term the sole counterweight to the generals. Although the role of the presidency could be further altered once a new constitution is written in the coming months, Morsi is expected to have at least some significant powers in the short term. He will likely appoint a new cabinet that would dislodge stalwarts of Mubarak’s regime who have held on to powerful posts during the past 17 months of military rule.
Egyptians had awaited Sunday’s announcement with baited breath, fearing a victory for either candidate could spark unrest and violence. Both candidates have claimed they won and dueling rallies in recent days have been seen of harbingers of a potentially explosive reaction by the losing camp.
The Brotherhood had said Morsi won 53 percent of votes cast in last week’s runoff election against Shafiq. The election commission delayed announcing formal results until Sunday, fueling speculation that the results were being rigged.
In Cairo, public servants were dismissed from work early in the afternoon so they could be home before the announcement, which was scheduled to take place at 3 p.m., but was delayed Banks and several other businesses closed early. Some foreign-run organizations were asked by embassies to be on alert; a number had updated evacuation plans in the event the coming days turn violent.
Brotherhood supporters have been holding massive rallies in Cairo’s Tahrir Square this week. The events have had a celebratory vibe, but they have also been interpreted as a warning of the kind of street reaction the military could face if Shafiq is proclaimed winner.
Supporters of Shafiq, a former air force chief who served as Mubarak’s last prime minister, has also held victory rallies, most notably a large one Saturday night during which they exalted their candidate and criticized the Brotherhood.
-This article was published in The Washington Post on the 22/06/2012