Fortune favours Mohamed Morsi
Man jailed by Mubarak replaces him
In a reversal of fortunes unthinkable a year and a half ago, an Islamist jailed by Hosni Mubarak has succeeded him as president of the biggest Arab nation in a victory at the ballot box which has historic consequences for Egypt and the Middle East.
The Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsy will not enjoy the extent of modern, pharaonic powers exercised by Mubarak: those have been curtailed by a military establishment which will decide just how much he will be able to do in government.
Still, the US-trained engineer’s victory in the country’s first free presidential election breaks a tradition of domination by men from the armed forces, which have provided every Egyptian leader since the overthrow of the monarchy 60 years ago, and installs in office a group that drew on 84 years of grassroots activism to catapult Morsy into the presidency.
He has promised a moderate, modern Islamist agenda to steer Egypt into a new democratic era where autocracy will be replaced by transparent government that respects human rights and revives the fortunes of a powerful Arab state long in decline. Morsy is promising an “Egyptian renaissance with an Islamic foundation”.
Yet the stocky, bespectacled 60-year old, appears something of an accidental president: he was only flung into the race at the last moment by the disqualification on a technicality of Khairat al-Shater, by far the group’s preferred choice.
With a stiff and formal style, Morsy, who has a doctorate from the University of Southern California, cast himself as a reluctant latecomer to the race, who cited religious fear of judgment day as one of his reasons for running. He struggled to shake off his label as the Brotherhood’s “spare tyre”.
Questions remain over the extent to which Morsy will operate independently of other Brotherhood leaders once in office: his manifesto was drawn up by the group’s policymakers. The role Shater might play has been one focus of debate in Egypt.
Many Egyptians, not least the Christian minority, remain suspicious of Morsy and even more so of the group he represents. Anti-Brotherhood sentiment, fuelled by both a hostile media and some of the group’s policies, has soared in recent weeks.
Ahmed Shafik, the former general he defeated, won nearly as many votes as Morsy, signalling that Egypt is a nation that is anything but united around the idea of Brotherhood rule. Morsy won a little less than a quarter of the first-round vote in May.
That a man who served as Mubarak’s last prime minister was so close to victory has been seen as one sign of failure by the Brotherhood — which has described itself as the victim of a vicious campaign orchestrated by its enemies.