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Muslim Brotherhood's Morsi becomes Egypt's first civilian president

The Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsi was declared Egypt's first civilian president since the monarchy was overthrown in 1952. But he will share power with a military suspicious of his 84-year-old Islamist organization.

By Correspondent / June 24, 2012

Egyptian protesters celebrate the victory of Mohammed Morsi in the country's presidential election, in Tahrir Square in Cairo, June 24. Mohammed Morsi was declared Egypt's first Islamist president on Sunday after the freest elections in the country's history, narrowly defeating Hosni Mubarak's last Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq in a race that raised political tensions in Egypt to a fever pitch.

Khalil Hamra/AP

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Cairo

The Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi will be Egypt's first civilian president in a historic victory for an 84-year-old organization that was banned and oppressed under the former regime just a year and a half ago.

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Morsi supporters in Tahrir Square erupted in wild cheers when election officials announced that Morsi won the race with 51.73 percent of the vote, narrowly beating his opponent Ahmed Shafiq, the last prime minister under Hosni Mubarak, who was pushed from power during a popular uprising against his regime in February 2011. Outside the square, cars honked and Egyptians set off fireworks to celebrate their first freely elected president.

Yet the moment that should have ended Egypt’s tortuous transition from military rule to civilian government is bittersweet: the generals who have ruled Egypt since Mubarak’s ouster have limited the authority of the incoming president, and will hold significant influence after he takes office, setting the stage for a prolonged battle to bring about a true transition to civilian rule.

Timeline: Egypt's revolution

Morsi will assume Egypt’s top office June 30 as the president of a deeply divided nation. His supporters see his win over a Mubarak-era official as a victory for the uprising. Others worry Morsi will be more beholden to the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood than the Egyptian people, and that he will seek to implement Islamic law and limit individual freedoms. Yet it’s unclear how much influence he will be able to exert to accomplish any of his goals after a power grab by the military last week.

Military rules

After a court ruling nullified Egypt’s first freely elected parliament in more than five decades, leading to its dissolution, the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) issued an amendment to Egypt’s interim constitution that limited the president’s power, gave the generals sole authority over all military matters, and gave the military council extensive control over the drafting of Egypt’s permanent constitution. The Brotherhood rejected the amendment and called large protests in Tahrir, giving the appearance of a confrontation with the military.

Yet the two sides were also talking behind closed doors, leading some to wonder whether the announcement today was the result of a deal. It had been delayed for three days, fueling rumors of negotiations. Two members of a coalition of revolutionary icons and secularists who announced their support for Morsi Friday said Brotherhood members told them the SCAF gave the Brotherhood an ultimatum last week: accept the constitutional declaration, or Morsi’s opponent Shafiq would be declared the winner. Whether the Brotherhood promised SCAF anything in exchange for being allow the presidency is a question on many minds here.

As he maneuvers for power against the military, Morsi, a bespectacled, American-educated engineer, will face nearly half a country skeptical of or openly hostile to his rule. A group of revolutionary leaders announced their support for him Friday in return for promises he was committed to a democratic civil state, and would appoint an inclusive government and a vice president not from the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP). But many others still oppose the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate.

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