Monday, June 25, 2012

Egyptians Celebrate Election Results

From Prisoner to President: Islamist Mohamed Morsi Wins Egyptian Vote

Crowds in Tahrir Square rejoice after Mohamed Morsi is finally declared victor after a week of uncertainty. Alastair Beach reports from Cairo.

The Independent
Monday, 25 June 2012

The Muslim Brotherhood was celebrating a landmark victory in its eight-decade quest for power last night after Mohamed Morsi was confirmed as the first democratically-elected President in Egypt's history.

In what could represent a seismic shift in the political balance of the Middle East, Mr Morsi, an Islamist jailed by Hosni Mubarak, eventually emerged as the victor following a nail-biting week in which the fate of the country hung in the balance.

The result – which saw Mr Morsi vanquish the former fighter pilot and Mubarak's last Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik by a margin of less than 3 per cent – is a momentous one for the Brotherhood, whose members have suffered torture, persecution and imprisonment at the hands of successive leaders since the revolution of 1952.

"We got to this moment because of the blood of the martyrs of the revolution," said Mr Morsi's spokesman, Ahmed Abdel-Attie, yesterday. "Egypt will start a new phase in its history."

But the victory also marks the first step in what looks likely to be a presidency plagued with pitfalls and overshadowed by the military establishment.

Tens of thousands of people packed into Tahrir Square, where almost 15 months ago to the day the first clashes erupted in what would eventually lead to the toppling of Mubarak. The crowds had been waiting for hours in the baking heat, but they were made to wait even longer by Farouk Sultan, the head of the Supreme Constitutional Court. His press conference was relayed to Tahrir Square on a loudspeaker.

When the result was eventually announced, confirming Muslim Brotherhood claims throughout the week, the roar was almost deafening. People wept as fireworks began to pop above the square. Others, clutching Korans, got to their knees and began to pray.

"Egypt has been reborn," shouted Ibrahim Mohamed, an electrician who said he was not a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. "We will not return to the old days. The revolution continues."

Another Morsi supporter, Mahmoud Soliman, spoke to The Independent in Mohamed Mahmoud Street – the road leading off Tahrir Square which was the scene of vicious clashes between activists and the security forces late last year. Standing in front of one of the commemorative murals on the walls of the American University, the 50-year-old accountant said Mr Morsi's victory was a triumph for God. "God will make Egypt a great country," said Mr Soliman, sporting one of the long beards sometimes favoured by conservative Muslims. "Mohamed Morsi is the hand of God who will make Egypt great again."

Yet after a year and a half in which Egypt's uprising has looked anything but victorious, there were ominous indications of the potential for further conflict yesterday. Following the election commission's announcement, supporters near Ahmed Shafik's headquarters started screaming: "The people want the execution of the Field Marshal" – a reference to Hussein Tantawi, the man who will continue to rule as Egypt's de facto leader until the handover of power, supposedly at the end of this month.

The result itself came following a week which was racked with tension, as rumours circulated about Egyptians stockpiling food supplies in case of a breakdown in order. Twitter was awash with claims and counter-claims about an election too close to call.

Renewed violence was also widely predicted – an eventuality which appeared to have been forestalled by Mr Morsi's success. Yet tensions are certain to re-emerge. The military ring-fenced certain powers in a constitutional declaration last week. The Brotherhood-dominated parliament was also recently dissolved – a development the group wants to reverse – while the generals have claimed the right to draft the new constitution.