Morsi was elected Egypt’s president because voters wanted a clean break with the past, but it is far from clear how well he can unite his deeply divided country, writes Tarek Masoud.
This week, the Presidential Elections Commission, the judicial body that oversaw Egypt’s first relatively free and fair contest for the country’s top job, finally certified Mohamed Morsi Eissa al-Ayat, the candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, as the victor. The election had actually concluded a week prior, and while the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) announced its candidate’s triumph almost immediately, the PEC demurred, first saying it would release the result last Thursday, and then postponing until Sunday. Many believed that the delay was that so the judges, and Egypt’s ruling military junta, could figure out a way to cook the numbers to show a Morsi defeat.
This was not the first time that Morsi has had to cool his heels in limbo while a judge would figure out whether (or how) to steal an election from him. I first met Morsi eight years ago, when he was running for reelection to Egypt’s 454-man Parliament. A representative from the Nile delta town of Zagazig, he had been one of 17 Muslim Brotherhood legislators, and had earned a reputation as one of the body’s most vociferous critics of the government of Hosni Mubarak. Perhaps because of this, the word on Morsi’s campaign was that his seat was not safe, and that the regime was intent on removing him from the assembly.
The night of the election, I (and what felt like a thousand Muslim Brothers) stood outside the building in which the votes were being tallied by the judge (in the 2000 and 2005 elections, judicial oversight of vote counting was thought to provide a modicum of integrity to the process). Morsi and his opponent were inside the station, observing the judge do his work. Throughout the evening, we received reports on what was going on inside from a Brother who was in cellphone contact with Morsi or one of his aides. At one point, we began to hear that the numbers were showing a Morsi victory. Shortly afterward, we heard that the judge was now on the phone with superiors in Cairo. Finally, the word came that the judge had been ordered to swap the two candidates’ figures, and Morsi was arguing with him, pleading with him to fear God and do the right thing. The judge, who likely had plenty of more worldly things to fear if he actually took Morsi’s advice, was reportedly apologetic. As he put pen to paper to complete the foul deed, he allegedly turned to Morsi and said, “All I ask is that if you want to curse someone, please just curse me and not my children.”
Mohamed Morsi was elected Egypt’s president because voters wanted a clean break with the past, but it is unclear how well he can unite his deeply divided country. (Egypt State TV / AP Photo)
By the time Morsi emerged from the building, we all knew what had happened, and I remember thinking that the crowd was going to erupt in violence—they were Islamic “fundamentalists” after all. But instead of a call to revenge or mayhem, Morsi gave a short speech in which he recounted regime abuses, celebrated the fact that the Brotherhood had as a whole won more than five times their old number of seats in the assembly, and then asked everyone to go home peacefully. With tears in their eyes, they did. Who could have predicted that a mere seven years later, Morsi would face the same scenario, except this time it would go his way and hand him the presidency?
Morsi assumes Egypt’s highest office at an incredibly dangerous time in the country’s history. The ruling military junta, which had earlier promised to hand over power at the end of June, now seems unlikely to go anywhere. A judicial decision to dissolve Egypt’s Parliament in the days before the presidential election means that legislative authority reverts to the generals, and they can be expected to make their voices heard. Meanwhile, the political landscape remains bitterly divided—not just between supporters of the two presidential candidates, but between young and old, urban and rural, between those who want Islamic law and those who don’t, and between those who want gradual change and those who want radical transformation.
With Morsi winning the election, some fear Egypt is heading for Islamic-fascist rule. By Erin Banco.
CAIRO—Nada Badrawy leaned on a wall covered with graffiti of slogans and scenes from the 2011 revolution as she looked on to the tens of thousands of people in Tahrir Square. They were all waiting for the official announcement of who would become Egypt’s next president—a moment that they never thought possible just 16 months ago. She listened to Farouk Sultan, chairman of the Supreme Constitutional Court, deliver his speech through her red Samsung phone, its antennae stretched all the way out. Sultan's voice cracked through her speaker. "Khalas," she said. Sultan’s speech had dragged on for more than 45 minutes, and the people of Egypt had waited long enough.
"I really hope for Shafiq," Badrawy said. "I really hope." But finally, after an hour of waiting, Sultan announced the news everyone had been waiting for.
Mohamed Morsi would become the next president of Egypt.
Cheers erupted from the crowd as the results were read. Those who were sitting in local cafés watching Sultan’s speech ran to join the celebration. Men and women embraced each other, yelling “Allahu akbar.” Grown men wept, and some, even in the middle of the chaos, kneeled on the ground and prayed.
With that, Badrawy let out an angry sigh, and slammed her phone shut. Morsi won the presidency, but she said if there is one thing that she has learned over the past year and a half, it is that nothing in Egyptian politics is ever certain.
Morsi, who is the first Islamist elected as head of state, won with 13,230,131 votes against Shafiq’s 12,347,380. Polls officially closed the night of June 17 and initial results pointed to Morsi as the clear leader.
Cairo erupted in cheers for Egypt’s first-ever president-elect—but the country is still fractured. Vivian Salama on the tough road ahead for the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi.
In a victory 84 years in the making, Mohamed Morsi, a U.S.-educated engineer and head of the Muslim Brotherhood’s political arm in Egypt, was officially named the country’s first-ever president-elect, 16 months after Egyptians ousted their president of 30 years, Hosni Mubarak, in a popular revolt. The victory positions Islamists to lead renewed calls for revolution against the military rulers, accused by many of hatching a soft coup to monopolize power.
Morsi clenched the presidency with 51.73 percent of the vote, while his opponent Ahmed Shafiq, the last prime minister to serve under Mubarak, earned 48.24 percent, according to Farouq Sultan, head of the election commission and chairman of the Supreme Constitutional Court of Egypt. Euphoria instantly erupted in Tahrir Square as tens of thousands of Morsi supporters and pro-revolutionaries shot off fireworks, waved flags, and cheered in a frenzied celebration. Drivers honked car horns, and people ran through the streets shouting “God is great!”
“This is the happiest day of my life,” said Salah El-Din, 28, a Morsi supporter celebrating in Tahrir Square. “Dr. Morsi will defeat the military, and the power will belong to the people again.”
Celebrations extended to the neighboring Gaza Strip as well, where supporters of Hamas, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, rejoiced at news of an Islamist Egyptian president.
Morsi, who earned a doctorate in engineering from the University of Southern California, is considered a soft power in the Muslim Brotherhood and has long been overshadowed by more conservative members of the group. He has run on a free-market platform, but with a heavy emphasis on improving social services. While his official platform does not mention the military, he has repeatedly said that no institution will be above the Constitution once he is sworn in July 1. He has vowed to support the Palestinian people in their struggle for statehood, and while he has made provocative comments about Israel, once calling it a “vampire” state, he has repeatedly promised that the Camp David accords will remain untouched.
The Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsi wins Egypt's election
Muslim Brotherhood candidate.
Mohamed Morsi has been declared the winner of Egypt’s presidential election, the first Islamist head of state to rise from the Arab Spring uprisings. Morsi was declared the victor over former prime minister and Mubarak ally Ahmed Shafiq by nearly 1 million votes. Morsi is the candidate from the political wing of the popular Muslim Brotherhood, and there had been widespread threat of violence if Morsi had not been declared the winner. Cairo’s Tahrir Square erupted in cheers upon the news of Morsi’s victory. Egypt’s Army ruler for the past year, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, has already congratulated Morsi on his victory, Egyptian state television reported.
But ruling military warns of firm response.
Thousands of Egyptians packed into Cairo’s Tahrir Square—the site of the famous revolution that toppled President Hosni Mubarak’s regime—on Friday as they awaited the results of the nation’s first presidential election. While the ruling military said Egyptians have the right to assemble peacefully in the square, they said they will “deal firmly” with attempts to harm the public interest. Members of Egypt’s powerful Muslim Brotherhood party camped out overnight in the square, and they expected to be joined later in the afternoon by secular protesters. The Muslim Brotherhood has claimed their candidate for president, Mohamed Morsi, is the “legitimate” winner of the election, although Mubarak’s former deputy, Ahmed Shafiq, has declared himself the victor. The official results are expected this weekend.
In one week, Mubarak has had heart attacks, a brain clot, and was pronounced clinically dead—are his doctors really that good? Vivian Salama reports on the former leader’s alleged final days.
It is somewhat impossible to decipher between fact and fiction in Egypt when everyone speaks with authority about everything from their own health to U.S. foreign policy. Egyptian culture is such that if you refuse a cigarette, you may be deemed elitist, not health conscious; if you point out weight gain, you are observant, not rude; and when someone asks you for directions, you always give it to them, regardless whether or not you know the way.
Our Newsbeast panel discusses why you shouldn't fear the Muslim Brotherhood.
It is therefore no surprise that late Tuesday night the nation was abuzz, both on the ground and online, over news that former president Hosni Mubarak was “clinically dead”—with theories rife over its significance just days before the winner of the first presidential election is announced. There were skeptics, of course—rightfully so; it wasn’t the first time he’d "died." Some authoritatively explained that his death is being used as a distraction from the current political transition. Ahmed Orabi, an engineer from Cairo, speculates that the ruling military junta does not want Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi to clench the presidency, so they faked Mubarak’s death as a way to win sympathy for Morsi's opponent, Ahmed Shafiq, a former member of the defunct regime. “It is a conspiracy,” he says.
Others believe the disgraced Mubarak has been dead for months, while some say he is in perfect health and living the good life in jail. “I don't think Mubarak is as sick as they claim he is, because no one has three heart attacks and a brain clot and survives them all in one week—our doctors are not that good,” Mahmoud Salem, author of the popular blog “Rantings of a Sandmonkey” said in an interview.
Mubarak’s lawyers later confirmed that he isn’t dead, but is experiencing a "fast deterioration of his health” and he has since come off life support. They say he has been transported from prison, where he is serving a life sentence for protester deaths last year, to a military hospital in the Cairo suburb of Maadi. Not that anyone believes them. Such is the mood in Cairo on the eve of learning who the next president will be—with both camps claiming victory and a bulk of the opposition turning their efforts toward ousting the military leadership. Tens of thousands poured into Tahrir Square on Tuesday night in what was more a celebration than a demonstration. Some jubilantly waved Morsi banners and assured skeptics that victory is inevitable. Buses were parked all along the outskirts of Tahrir Square on Tuesday as hordes of people from the countryside traveled in to take part in the festivities.
“Thank God, Mohammed Morsi is our president and he will fix all that is wrong with our country,” said Omar Mohammed, 23, who bused in from the governorate of Fayoum to take part in the rally.
As Mubarak reportedly clings to life, thousands of protesters flooded Tahrir Square to denounce the military's powers. Vivian Salama on the ticked-off Egyptians fighting for democracy—again.
Ancient Egyptians believed that every person has three souls: Ka, Ba, and Akh. When a pharaoh was dying, priests went to great lengths to preserve the body in the hopes that even in death, the soul of the pharaoh dwells on earth for eternity.
Egyptians gather in Tahrir Square to protest the dissolution of Parliament and celebrate a premature victory for presidential candidate Mohamed Morsi. (Daniel Berehulak / Getty Images)
More than 16 months after Hosni Mubarak, Egypt's modern-day pharaoh, resigned and was imprisoned, reports of his death have once again managed to overshadow the country’s historic transition period, just days before his predecessor is to be announced and while protesters took to the streets to purge his legacy from the incoming administration. State-run Middle East News Agency reported late Tuesday that the defunct leader was “clinically dead,” later backtracking to say that he experienced a "fast deterioration of his health" and is on life support.
With both camps claiming victory and official results not expected until June 21, tens of thousands of people poured into Tahrir Square Tuesday night with spirits reminiscent of the 18-day demonstration that brought down the former regime. The protesters donned face veils or long, thick beards and carried campaign posters of Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi—the presumed winner by many. Some, young hipsters by American standards, carried red socialist flags. Others brought their children and waved red, white, and black banners that read “I love Egypt.” To many activists in Egypt, it doesn’t matter who wins the presidential election. One theme was universal across the square: the revolution continues.
Even as the last of the votes were being counted and Mubarak death rumors made the rounds yet again, demonstrators chanted in unison, denouncing the country’s current ruler—the military—following a series of recent legislations that some say amounted to a soft coup. They chanted: “We’ll finish what we started! Down, down, military rule.” Faced with the dilemma of choosing between the stalwart former Air Force commander Ahmed Shafiq and Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, many are fearful that a military clampdown is inevitable, regardless of who the president is.
Egyptians flooded Tahrir Square to protest election results.
Said to be in coma.
Former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak’s health reportedly continued to deteriorate on Wednesday as he was moved from prison to an Army hospital in Cairo. He is reportedly in a coma and on life support. Earlier reports that he was “clinically dead” were later denied, but there has been no official statement. Both supporters and opponents gathered outside the Maadi hospital throughout the night, although some remained skeptical about Mubarak’s declining health. Meanwhile, thousands protested Tuesday in Tahrir Square against the ruling military council’s decision to claim new powers, as Mubarak’s former military leader, Ahmed Shafiq, and his Muslim Brotherhood challenger, Mohamed Morsi, both declared victory in the election. The results are expected to be announced Thursday.
Campaign spokesman says Ahmed Shafiq won.
The more things change, the more they stay the same in Egypt. Ahmed Shafiq, the man whom Hosni Mubarak appointed as prime minister during Egypt’s tumultuous revolution last year, declared himself the winner in the country’s presidential race. Ahmed Sarhan, a spokesman for Shafiq, said in a press conference that Shafiq captured 51.5 percent of the vote and claimed that the Mohamed Morsi’s victory claim was “false.” The official result of the vote will be announced Thursday. Meanwhile, crowds gathered in Tahrir Square, and the city braced for more protests throughout the day.
Israeli analysts are concerned that Mohamed Morsi, the newly elected president of Egypt, will eventually resort to a time-tested sop in the Arab world: blaming Israel.
He won’t attack Israel and he’s unlikely to tear up the peace treaty, at least initially. But Israelis are worried that Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood leader and newly elected president of Egypt, will lead an isolation campaign against the Jewish state, shore up Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and bring relations between the two countries to their lowest point in more than 30 years.
Morsi defeated the candidate of the old Mubarak regime, Ahmed Shafik, by a slim margin in a runoff election over the weekend, according to preliminary results. He faces huge challenges, including a battered economy and a military that refuses to submit to civilian rule.
Israeli officials and analysts who spoke to The Daily Beast about the results said Morsi will have little time in the coming months to deal with anything but his country’s most pressing domestic matters. They include reasserting control over Sinai, where gunmen launched a cross-border attack against Israel yesterday, killing one person.
But they also predicted that if he’s unable to restore stability and stem widespread poverty, Morsi would likely resort to what Israelis see as a time-tested sop in the Arab world: blaming Israel.
“Once he understands that he has no quick solution to cope with the social and economic problems, he’ll start talking about the problem of Egypt’s relations with Israel,” says Eli Shaked, who served as Israel’s ambassador to Egypt from 2004 to 2005.
“It’s the easiest way to get populist support.”
As a Mubarak ally faces off against a Muslim Brotherhood candidate in Egypt’s presidential race, many voters feel as if they are being asked to choose between a suffocating past and an untenable future, writes Lauren E. Bohn.
Tucked away in a shabby building 50 miles outside of Cairo in one of Egypt’s dusty drab hamlets, and up seven flights of dingy stairs, sits a rotund and slick Ahmed Fouad Baddar, surrounded by a ring of grimacing men. He calls them his soldiers.
“It’s three days before presidential run-offs and Egypt is at war,” he declares, his desk flooded with papers and his cell phone ringing every five minutes (“What do you need?” is his standard greeting). “But,” he smiles widely, “we’re winning.”
For the past three months, Baddar has been at the helm of presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq’s campaign in Sharqeyya, one of many governorates in the rural Nile Delta region that Shafiq surprisingly swept in the first round of Egypt’s presidential elections. For a campaign office, the accoutrements are surprisingly sparse: the two-room office is small and features a single desk, sans phones or computers. The walls are wallpapered with Shafiq’s campaign posters that his critics scoff could double as advertisements for country-clubs or chic designer clothes. “We don’t need fancy equipment in here,” Baddar laughs. “We’ve got it covered.”
And they just might—a prospect that scares as many Egyptians as it excites.
Egyptian presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq addresses his supporters during an election rally in Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, June 14, 2012. Judges appointed by Hosni Mubarak dissolved the Islamist-dominated parliament on Thursday and ruled that Mubarak's former prime minister can stand in the presidential runoff this weekend _ derailing Egypt's transition to democracy and setting the stage for the military and remnants of the old regime to stay in power. (Nasser Nasser / AP Photo)
Eighteen months after the ouster of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s presidential run-off between the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi and Ahmed Shafiq, Mubarak’s last prime minister and a former Air Force general, has morphed into a national identity crisis. It’s a contest of power between political Islam and remnants of the Mubarak regime. Shafiq’s seemingly out-of-nowhere success indicates exactly what revolutionaries have feared all along: a resurgence of the former ruling regime's political machine that never really went away. Such hunches seemed to be confirmed on Thursday when Egypt’s judiciary ruled to dissolve the democratically elected, Islamist-led Parliament, while also confirming the right of Shafiq to run for president, escalating an already heated battle for power between the remnants of the toppled regime and rising Islamists. The ruling essentially means that whoever emerges as the winner of the runoff scheduled for this weekend will take the helm in Egypt without a parliament, a constitution, or a definite framework for assembling one. That winner will most likely also control the election of a future Parliament.
Egypt’s high court ruled the Islamist Parliament must dissolve immediately, paving the way for next week’s election winner to rise to power. But wasn’t the point of the revolution to avoid military and theocratic states? Vivian Salama reports.
With just 36 hours to go until Egypt’s historic presidential election, the country has no Parliament and no new constitution. In a stunning 11th-hour decision, the country’s High Constitutional Court dissolved the Islamist-dominated Parliament, declaring that elections were unconstitutional, essentially leaving the new president at the mercy of the military. In the 17 months since Egyptians joined forces to topple President Hosni Mubarak, the country has evolved from one of collective euphoria to one limp with apprehension, this latest development sending the country into a tailspin.
A youth shouts next to an Egyptian flag as the revolutionary youth of Egypt return to Tahrir to protest the outcome of the Egyptian presidential election, Cairo, Egypt, May 28, 2012. (Fredrik Persson / AP Photo)
Egyptians will head to the polls June 16—many with heavy hearts—as they cast a final vote for a president, with the hope of dislodging themselves from more than a half century of status quo. But Tahrir Square still swells with protesters every few days—the upcoming vote creating a dilemma for many, pitting two of the least likely candidates against each other: one, an old guard from the defunct regime, the other, an Islamist heavyweight. With no legislative body to ensure checks and balances, the new president may have to take on the powerful military establishment on his own.
The military, de facto ruler of the country since Mubarak’s resignation, has suffered a severe decline in public opinion following a number of violent clashes with protesters that evoked a bitter outcry. Making matters worse, a government decree passed earlier this week allows military police and intelligence to detain civilians and refer them to military tribunals—a ruling reminiscent of Mubarak-era tactics used to crush dissent. The military may soon surrender the top seat, but recent developments signal that it will continue to play an active role in governance, regardless of who wins.
All the while, the economy is in shambles, and citizens who were already struggling to make ends meet before the revolution are now barely getting by, fueled only by hope that change for the better is on the brink.
Facing off this weekend: Ahmed Shafiq, 70, a former Air Force commander and the last prime minister appointed by Mubarak, and Mohammed Morsi, 60, a U.S.-educated engineer and chairman of the Muslim Brotherhood’s political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party. For weeks, the two have appeared in campaign ads and traveled across Egypt, meeting citizens and addressing their concerns, with hope of establishing new loyalties amid this turbulent period. Egypt's high court also issued a last-minute ruling allowing Shafiq to continue his bid, despite his links to the previous regime.
As the country looks toward a June presidential runoff, Egypt’s dreaded security agencies remain loathsome relics of Hosni Mubarak’s regime.
Among the many reasons why Hosni Mubarak’s people finally turned against him last year, the behavior of Egypt’s police and security agencies deserve to rank in any observer’s top three. Put simply, the Interior Ministry under Mubarak lost control of itself—morphing into a predatory force with no real checks on its behavior, as its reach extended into the lives of almost every citizen.
Now 15 months after Mubarak was driven from power, disturbingly little has changed. Egypt’s hated and dreaded Interior Ministry stands largely unreformed—an armed and resentful elephant in the room of post-revolutionary Egypt, and one of the biggest potential obstacles to truly changing the way the country worked under the old regime.
“In terms of internal reform, very little really has happened,” said Karim Ennarah a researcher with the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, a Cairo-based human rights NGO.
“The only thing that really has changed is that after the revolution … they’ve discovered PR. Before that they really didn’t care.”
Egypt’s police have returned to the streets in nearly full force; in some districts their grip is less firm than it used to be, but they’ve largely revived their thug-and-informant-based control networks and retained the penchant for stationhouse brutality and coerced confessions. Curiously, this return to power has coincided with an increase in street crime and rising public perception of widespread instability.
It’s a twin phenomenon that some find to be more than a coincidence. Some observers such as Alaa Aswany, a bestselling novelist and longtime opposition activist, believe the police and security infrastructure are either sitting back and letting the situation on the streets deteriorate or actively involved in making it worse.
Ex-premier Ahmed Shafiq served under Mubarak.
A mob of several hundred people attacked the Cairo campaign headquarters of Egyptian presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq on Monday. They broke windows, destroyed campaign posters, and set the building on fire, according to witnesses. Shafiq took second in last week’s round of voting and he will be running against the Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Morsi during the runoff election in June. Shafiq served as Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister, and there is fear that his presidency would be an extension of the Mubarak regime.
Though spokesman refuses to give percentages.
The Muslim Brotherhood claims to be leading in exit polls in Egypt’s first truly competitive presidential election. Workers began counting the ballots from the two days of voting on Thursday night, but the Brotherhood claimed on TV that its candidate, Mohamed Morsi, was the leader in exit polls nationwide. The Brotherhood spokesman would not give percentages, but regional television channels have also said that their exit polls show Morsi in the lead, with Ahmed Shafiq and Hamdeen Sabahi competing for second place. A run-off election is scheduled for June 16-17 and will only be held if none of the 13 candidates win over half of the votes in the first election.
Egyptians went to the polls May 23–24 to pick a democratically elected president—not only the first election since the fall of Hosni Mubarak, but the first of its kind in the country's 5,000-year history.
Egypt’s high court ruled the Islamist Parliament must dissolve immediately. By Vivian Salama.
A Country in Turmoil
Dan Ephron on Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, who may be Egypt’s next president.