Egypt's president-elect Morsi vows to unite a divided nation

Egypt's president-elect Mohamed Morsi promised to unite a divided nation in a victory speech tonight. Not everyone is taking the Muslim Brotherhood leader at his word.

Egypt State TV/AP
In this image taken from Egypt State TV, newly-elect President Mohammed Morsi delivers a speech in Cairo, Egypt, Sunday Morsi has called for unity and said he carries 'a message of peace' to the world.

Egypt’s president-elect Mohamed Morsi delivered a plea for unity to a divided Egypt Sunday night, hours after he was declared the winner in Egypt’s first presidential race since the uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak.

In an attempt to bring the nation together after a divisive race, Dr. Morsi, the candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood, addressed Egyptians in a humble tone, and asked them to work together with him to rebuild Egypt. His very appearance on state television underscored the historic nature of his presidency: during Mubarak’s regime, when the Brotherhood was a banned organization, state television announcers did not even say its name on air.

Even since the uprising that ousted Mubarak, state television has participated in a smear campaign against the Brotherhood. Now a Brotherhood leader was delivering a speech on the beacon of state propaganda.

“Great people of Egypt, my brothers, my family, I am aware of the challenges which face us now but I'm sure if we work together, with your support, we will be able to cross this transitional moment,” he said.

Election officials declared Morsi the winner today with just under 52 percent of the vote, and the tenor of his speech reflected how divided the country is. Many are wary of a president from the Muslim Brotherhood. Morsi praised both the Army and the police, who were involved in the Mubarak regime’s oppression of the Brotherhood and may find it hard to accept a Brotherhood candidacy. He pledged equal rights for Christians and women, and said he would respect human rights and fight discrimination. “Egypt is for all Egyptians,” he said. “We are all equal in rights and responsibilities before this nation."

In a bid to reassure the US and Israel, he also pledged to respect international treaties, indirectly referring to Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel. But he also gave a nod to the fact that popular opinion will now matter more in Egypt’s foreign policy, pledging to have a balanced relationship with foreign powers based on mutual respect. “We will not allow anyone to interfere in our affairs,” he said.

Morsi said the right things, but many of those he meant to reassure will wait to see his actions before they trust him, says Mustapha Kamal Al Sayyid, political science professor at the American University in Cairo. “I guess all parties concerned would wait to see whether he is going to act upon these promises or whether his deeds will be different from what he says,” says Dr. Sayyid. “I think for the time being those who were worried with his elections will give him the benefit of the doubt.”

Boula Zakie, a Christian, said Morsi’s words had not reassured him, bringing up the string of promises the Brotherhood has broken throughout the transition. “I don’t believe him. The Brotherhood speaks a lot, but they don’t do anything,” he said. “They are liars.”

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