Conservative Islamist and Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi has become Egypt’s first ever freely elected president in an historic victory over fear and military might.
His rival, Ahmed Shafiq, who was Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister and loyal friend, refused to concede last night but the numbers counted so far suggest that Morsi was a clear winner with about 52% of the vote.
As president-elect, Morsi will have no constitution, no parliament, no job description and will be more or less beholden to the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) and its chief, Field Marshal Tantawi. Tantawi may as well have won the presidency as he still holds all the power.
Following last week’s dissolution of Parliament, which gave the military full legislative, executive and budgetary authority over the country, SCAF made another power grab late Sunday in the form of a supplementary amendment to its March 2011 “temporary” constitution.
Only SCAF can rule on all issues related to the armed forces and Tantawi remains commander-in-chief and defence minister until a new constitution is drafted. How this fits it with the military’s promise to step aside on July 1 is a mystery, as nobody believes they are ready to move out of the way for any president.
Morsi’s victory in the elections came as a shock to many, especially a virulent anti-Brotherhood movement who felt that even if Shafiq came up short, his military and former party backers would somehow pull a rabbit out of the hat and prevent a conservative Islamist from taking the presidency. Some are still hoping for this to happen before Thursday’s official confirmation of the winner by the Supreme Presidential Electoral Commission (SPEC).
Only one thing is certain in Egyptian politics: no amount of imagination can prepare you for what might happen in the next 24 hours.
SCAF’s continuing grab for power is being likened to a “rolling coup”. Part one was SCAF’s removal of Mubarak, with a little help from last year’s January 25 revolution, and the next was to render powerless his “elected” successor with a lot of help from themselves. SCAFs weekend power shenanigans sent Twitter into overdrive yesterday with hundreds joining a cheeky game of what sort of #PresidentialPowers would be left for Morsi?
“He will have the permit to bring his water kettle in his office,” said one tweet. “He can post whatever he wants on twitter. Actually, no! I don’t think they’ll let him,” said another.
“He can fly his own personal Air Force One by stretching out his arms and making jet noises. He can wave Hi at people from his Presidential Car, assuming he’s not secretly sending us signals to save him. He can arrange his iTunes playlist however he wants, so long as he sticks to the prior-approved songs.”
Morsi and his Freedom and Justice Party, which won the majority of seats in the Parliamentary elections beginning last November, have vowed to challenge the dissolution of Parliament. They will try and enter the building this morning but if blocked by riot police or the military, they’ll reconvene in Tahrir Square where protesters are gathering yet again to slam the power of the military.
Lacking charisma, Morsi has yet to inspire anybody. He began on the back foot as second choice or “spare” to the Brotherhood’s preferred then disqualified candidate, Khairat Al-Shater so has had little time to establish himself.
So far he’s shown little inclination to deal, rejecting outright a proposal by three candidates that were eliminated in the first round of voting in May. Those candidates, the leftist Hamdeen Sabahi, independent Islamist Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh and human rights advocate, Khalid Ali, met Morsi to discuss what compromises he would make to earn their endorsements.
He chose to make none.
Only time will tell if Morsi can withstand or even win any battles against SCAF let alone earn the support of a population that blindly followed Mubarak for nearly 30 years.
Morsi’s wife Naglaa Mahmoud was apparently the only candidate’s wife to appear at a rally during the first round run-off but is not interested in being a prominent “first lady”.