Egypt: Morsy wins election, but the military is the winner

Islamist candidate Mohamed Morsy was declared the first freely elected president of Egypt on July 24. Joyful members of the powerful Muslim Brotherhood went to the streets of Cairo, proclaiming their support of Morsy and vowing to take power from the military left over from the Hosni Mubarak regime who retain the reins of power. The 60-year-old Morsy bested former general Ahmed Shafik in a run-off election on June 16, garnering a convincing 3.5 percentage points (900,000) votes, there by taking 51.7 percent of the total, according to an official tally. A week of disputes thereby ended.  The U.S. educated Morsy proclaimed, "This is a testament to the resolve of the Egyptian people to make their voice heard."

Morsy’s predecessor, Hosni Mubarak was overthrown in a popular revolt last year. The powerful military, which runs businesses, manufacturing, and social services, then curtailed presidential powers. It is thus that Morsy must work closely with the military council on any alterations to the constitution and power-sharing.  Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, the leader of the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), called to congratulate Morsy on his victory.

Speaking by megaphone at the iconic Tahrir Square in Cairo, Muslim Brotherhood officials told the masses of activists that would continue with protests and demand that the military council annul this month’s dissolution of the Islamist-dominated parliament. They also vowed to force the military to rescind a decree curtailing the president’s powers. The masses of supporters cried “Allahu akbar!” (Allah is great), in a cacophony of voices that reverberated like waves in Tahrir Square. “Speak! Do not fear! The military must go!” cried the masses in Tahrir Square, where the Egyptian revolt played out during the so-called Arab Spring. The popular revolt, and pressure from the Muslim Brotherhood, compelled the Egyptian military to force out Mubarak.


Scuffles broke out in Cairo between members of the Muslim Brotherhood and supporters of the defeated Shafik.  The unsuccessful candidate’s supporters in Nasr City, a suburb of Cairo, chanted “Save Egypt! The Brotherhood will destroy it!” Soldiers were on hand to restore order.

According to Reuters, "Morsy is the first truly democratically elected president in Egypt," said Brotherhood official Yasser Ali. "He has the legitimacy and will sit down with the military council and all the political forces to resolve the outstanding issues over parliament and the constitutional decree and the newly imposed emergency law." Other spokesmen for the Brotherhood said that peaceful protests will continue throughout Egypt, vowing that the struggle for a new Egypt has only just begun.
Egyptian liberals, and Christians, are leery about the Muslim Brotherhood victory, as are the United States and Israel.  This is despite the fact that General Tantawi was former President Mubarak’s defense minister for 20 years and thus profited from the former regime’s close cooperation with the U.S. and a stable truce with Israel. Morsy, a bitter opponent of the Mubarak regime, is nonetheless familiar with the U.S. The new president of Egypt holds a doctorate in engineering from the University of Southern California.

According to Reuters, half of those who voted in the first round election in May did not vote for Morsy or Shafik: evidence of a rejection of Morsy’s Islamist agenda and Shafik’s ties to the hated military. A liberal member of parliament Amr Hamzawy tweeted, "I salute the elected president and I say to him that he faces a great mission: reassuring the 48 percent of the citizens who did not give their votes to him and that he becomes a president for all Egyptians, and he must guarantee democracy." For his part, Alaa Al-Aswany, a liberal and novelist, tweeted, "Congratulations to the Egyptian people, congratulations to President Mohamed Morsy. I hope he keeps all of his promises.” He continued, "The will of the people was able to bring down the old regime once again. A salute to the revolution."


Hani Fakhouri, an anthropologist who once taught at the University of Michigan-Flint and a veteran observer of his native Egypt, said that is the Egyptian military that actually gained with the Muslim Brotherhood’s victory. Fakhouri wrote on his blog, “The Egyptian military, which has been in power for more than sixty years, is not ready to give it up.”  Since the military did not favor a dynastic transferal of power to Jamal Mubarak, the son of Hosni, they were unwilling to turn their guns against the protesters at Tahrir Square in an effective manner. Once Mubarak was out of the way, the generals further secured their power, according to Fakhouri.

Blunders committed by the Muslim Brotherhood while in parliament, and their emphasis on side-bar issues such as bikini-clad women at public beaches, only inspired contempt among Egyptians.  By enforcing the decree limiting presidential authority, and by creating a new committee to draft a new constitution, the military only gained further power.

In sum, wrote Fakhouri, “the Egyptian military strategy was implemented with success. The revolution’s meager success so far is very significant for the following reasons. First, it removed the blanket of fear from authoritarian regimes so that political dictators do not emerge again. Second, Egyptians have experienced democracy and free elections for the first time in more than sixty years. Third, people began to experience the feeling of being free and expressing themselves without being prosecuted.” Fakhouri added as a coda to his analysis, “There are still more reforms that need to be implemented. Let us hope it will be accomplished by the incoming new government. The projection of Dr. Mursi as the winner was made before the official result of voting was made.”
 



Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. He is also a freelance translator.

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