The Muslim Brotherhood?s Mohammed Morsi has become Egypt?s first freely elected president after a…

The Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi has become Egypt’s first freely elected president after a delayed announcement of the results of last weekend’s runoff. He beat former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq by more than almost 900,000 votes. Morsi secured 51.7% of the vote, compared to 48% for Shafiq.

Mohammed Morsi heads the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), the Muslim Brotherhood’s political arm.

Mubarak appointed Shafik as prime minister in response to the protests against his regime. Shafik resigned a little more than a month later amid protests decrying him as a holdover from a discredited, ousted regime. Supports the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF): “SCAF is serious about power handover and is seeking to achieve the goals of the revolution. SCAF stands at an equal distance from all political and religious powers.” Parliamentary elections:

the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice party seems set to emerge as the biggest winner, with some analysts estimating it will capture about 40% of seats in the new legislature. Al-Nour, a more conservative Salafist party, looks likely to secure second place.

The Muslim Brotherhood (known in Arabic as al-Ikhwan al-Muslimeen) is Egypt’s oldest and largest Islamist organization. As the most organized opposition group following the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak in 2011, the Brotherhood became the country’s dominant political force, winning a near majority of seats in the post-revolution parliament, and its candidate, Mohammed Morsi, winning the presidency. Some Egyptians are concerned over the group’s aim to establish a state ruled by sharia, or Islamic law, and ambiguity over its respect for human rights. Such concerns intensified after Morsi announced new sweeping powers for the presidency in late 2012 and a draft of theproposed constitution was published. The domestic political challenges also provide a difficult road for U.S.-Egypt relations, especially with regards to foreign aid.

The Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), the political party of the Muslim Brotherhood, could not have come into being without the 25 January revolution. Up to that time, the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), Egypt’s most powerful Islamist organization, was not only denied the right to form parties, but also barred – at least legally – from political life. As a result, the group had to pay a heavy price in detentions and repression to practice politics under the rule of former President Hosni Mubarak. The group had been trying to get a foothold in the country’s political arena for decades but was met with entrenched opposition by the Mubarak regime, which tended to accommodate the Brotherhood, but only within strict limits.

Now, after the 25 January uprising, the group’s political ambitions have resurged on an unprecedented scale. Officially founded in May 2011, the FJP says that it is committed to a modern state, democracy, women’s rights, and national unity. The FJP’s initial membership of nearly nine thousand included one thousand women and one hundred Copts. New members are subject to a probationary period of six months after which, and based on their performance record, they become eligible for permanent membership. The FJP—along with the Salafist Al-Nour—is among a very few Egyptian political parties that issue probationary membership Formed alliance with name of Democratic Alliance (Freedom and Justice)

Al-Nour Party

Established in the wake of the 25 January uprising, Al-Nour (“The Light”) Party is the largest of Egypt’s three licensed Salafist parties (the other two being Al-Asala and Al-Fadila Parties). It was established by Al-Da‘wa Al-Salafiyya (“The Salafist Call”), Egypt’s largest Salafist group, commonly known as Al-Daawa Movement. Al-Daawa started in Alexandria where it now enjoys a considerable following.

Al-Nour Party was officially licensed in June 2011. Official registration is of paramount importance in Egypt at the present time, as the current election law limits the right to contest two-thirds of the seats of the upcoming parliament to a limited number of officially registered parties, including Al-Nour. Under the rule of former President Hosni Mubarak, the state generally did not allow for the formation of Islamist parties, but after the revolution many Islamist groups managed to obtain official political party license.

The Islamist Bloc is an electoral coalition formed by three Islamist political parties with the aim to integrate their efforts in the upcoming parliamentary elections. The Islamist Bloc is comprised of the Salafist Al-Nour and Al-Asala Parties, as well as the Building and Development Party, the latter of which was founded by the Islamic Group (Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya).

Wafad party:

Wafd Party is one of Egypt’s oldest liberal parties and is expected to play a significant role in the upcoming elections. With deposed President Hosni Mubarak’s ruling party officially disbanded, Wafd has emerged as an influential player in the political arena. The party commands the largest network that any political party in Egypt possesses today, covering major cities in twenty-four out of twenty-six Egyptian governorates. With a distinguished group of top Egyptian businessmen on its membership list, Al-Wafd stands out as one of the few established parties that do not face the same financial constraints that have historically challenged many of the country’s political parties. The party also enjoys a very strong presence in the media, thanks to its famous daily newspaper, its Internet portal, and a professional, well-equipped media department.

Additionally, Wafd’s current leader Al-Sayed Al-Badawi is owner of Al-Hayat, one of Egypt’s top five television channels. Such are luxuries that very few Egyptian parties possess. Wafd’s history dates back to the beginning of party life under the monarchy, making it the oldest among existing Egyptian political parties. The name of the party is Arabic for “The Delegation,” and it references Saad Zaghloul’s attempt in 1919 to lead a popular delegation to the post-World War I Paris Peace Conference to demand independence for Egypt against the will of British occupation authorities. Threatened by the immense popular support that Zaghloul was able to garner for his mission, British authorities exiled the Egyptian nationalist leader along with members of the prospective delegation to Malta. This move instigated a mass uprising, which led to the 1919 Revolution.

The Egyptian Bloc:

The Egyptian Bloc consists of the Free Egyptians Party, the Egyptian Social Democratic Party and Al-Tagammu Party. The Bloc is often portrayed as a “secular-leaning” alliance that seeks to counterbalance the influence of the Muslim Brotherhoodin the upcoming elections, specifically the Brotherhood led Democratic Alliance’s electoral coalition. Members of the Bloc announced in early November that their partnership is not simply a short-term electoral coalition, but encompasses a long-term political alliance aimed at turning Egypt into a civil democratic state.

Magdi Abdelhad:iMiddle East analyst

The Islamists’ rise to power in Egypt will send shockwaves through the courts and palaces of conservative Arab kings and presidents who have tried for decades to put the lid on political Islam. But foremost among Egypt’s neighbours who watched the brotherhood’s success with increasing alarm is Israel. Cairo was the first Arab state to sign a peace treaty with Israel and the brotherhood has traditionally been vehemently opposed to that. But its opposition has softened over the years – at least publicly.

It is widely believed that the Muslim Brotherhood have reassured Washington that an Islamist government in Egypt would respect the peace deal with Israel. Given also that the ruling military council will continue to have the final say on matters of war and peace, it is unlikely that the brotherhood can put that peace at risk. It is also more likely that Mr Mursi’s immediate priority will be to concentrate on Egypt’s many daunting domestic problems including rampant poverty and unemployment.

Debating leaders:

From the time of Ramses II, the strong pharaoh who ruled Egypt thousands of years ago, until last year when Hosni Mubarak’s reign ended, Egyptians were never able to witness a debate over who should take over the democratic reins in the highest office of the land. Our new culture of debate, together with the election of the Parliament last December, are milestones in the history of the nation, paving a new, but rocky, path toward democracy. The open debate between the secular and religious orientations of politics was unthinkable over the past 60 years. This new openness means the Egyptian body politic is maturing. In the end, Egyptians know that, for the first time, they can choose their future. It won’t be dictated or imposed by anyone.

Army protected revo:

Unlike in nearby Syria or earlier in Libya, the Egyptian Army has taken the high road and protected the revolution in its infancy. And it has been the guardian of these unprecedented transparent elections.


Among the most serious problems are economic hardship, the uncertainty of the political climate and the deterioration of security — a feature that Egyptian society faces anew. These problems have been compounded over the past 15 months as each of the three main constituencies involved in the revolution — the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which is in charge of the transition period; the politically liberal as well as Islamic-oriented parties; and the youth who triggered the uprising — have stumbled in one way or another.

Little bloodshed:

It is a hopeful sign indeed that we Egyptians are still marching forward toward democracy with relatively little bloodshed. All signs indicate that a counterrevolution is not in store for Egypt. We will not turn back to a totalitarian governing system. Perhaps the most encouraging of all is the confidence of Egyptians in their future.

In Egypt, a Victory for Democracy but Fear for the Future: “So many questions remain unanswered that what can best be said is that either SCAF and the Brotherhood have worked out a deal of some sort or the political jousting has only just begun,” wrote Issandr El Amrani, a popular blogger on Egyptian politics. “Both the Brothers and SCAF have positioned themselves in a manner in which backing down from their respective positions on the question of parliament and the Supplemental Constitutional Declaration would be a loss of face.” Tensions ran high for two weeks, when the SCAF assumed legislative responsibilities after shutting down the Islamist-controlled Parliament, announced a Supplemental Constitutional Declaration that drastically reduced presidential powers, and gave themselves the ability to veto articles of drafts of Egypt’s new constitution.

They also reintroduced martial law, allowing soldiers to arrest civilians. Critics called their actions a soft coup. The Muslim Brotherhood, the most powerful political player in Egypt, has on the surface refused to accept any of these decisions, staging a sit-in in Tahrir Square and issuing aggressive statements to the media, all the while vowing to pressure the military government to rescind their declarations. It was a rare move, as the pragmatic group is more generally known for cutting deals with the regime rather than going toe-to-toe. Last week, with the possibility of a victory by Ahmed Shafiq, the other candidate in the run-off election who is widely viewed as aligned with the military, the Brotherhood showed a willingness to work with the revolutionary groups it had mostly ignored since the uprising against Mubarak.

Morsi pledged to form a national salvation government to include secular politicians, Christians, and women. “The big question is: Can they build a broader, more inclusive front that can effectively challenge SCAF’s grip on power?” asks Shadi Hamid, director of research at the Brookings Doha Center. “Now that fear [of Shafiq’s victory] has passed, is there still enough that binds [the opposition groups] together? I do think the Brotherhood has at least implicitly acknowledged the mistakes of recent months and they have tried to strike a more conciliatory tone, and the recognition that they can’t do this alone because they are fighting a very challenging adversary: SCAF and the old regime.” To add to the challenges of running a country with a crumbling economy, President Morsi won with a narrow margin, garnering 51.7 percent of the vote. He had promised to be the president of all Egyptians during his first address to the nation Sunday night.

“The game was being played almost like a game of poker on both sides,” says Hani Shukrallah, managing editor of the English-language online version of the Al Ahramnewspaper. “If we have reached a compromise, that’s a bit helpful for healing the deep schisms [within] society. We have a society that’s been split down the middle, with enormous polarization. Most of the people who voted for Morsi did so out of dread [of] Shafiq.” On a side street leading to Tahrir Square on Sunday night, Ehab El Shawi led his three children to the epicenter of the celebration in the birthplace of Egypt’s uprising.

Like many, he was caught between rejoicing at the idea of a new president and the reality of the office’s lack of power. “This is the first time all Egyptian people made a choice in 7,000 years to elect a normal Egyptian citizen. This is the first time we have freedom in more than 60 years,” El Shawi said happily of the first non-military president in Egypt’s history. “But we have to change all the decisions taken during the presidential elections and force the powers to ensure Dr.Morsi will have all the power to make Egypt a modern country,” he added. “We still need to take Egypt back from the old regime.


Anti-Mubarak protests

2010 February – Former UN nuclear chief Mohammed ElBaradei returns to Egypt and, together with opposition figures and activists, forms a coalition for political change. ElBaradei says he might run in presidential election scheduled for 2011. 2010 March – President Mubarak undergoes gall-bladder surgery in Germany, returning to Egypt three weeks later. 2010 June – Muslim Brotherhood fails to win any seats in elections to the Shura consultative upper house of parliament; alleges vote was rigged. 2010 November – Coptic Christians clash with police in Giza over construction of church. Parliamentary polls, followed by protests against alleged vote rigging. Muslim Brotherhood fails to win a single seat, though it held a fifth of the places in the last parliament. 2011 January – 21 killed in bomb at church in Alexandria where Christians had gathered to mark the New Year. Anti-government demonstrations, apparently encouraged by Tunisian street protests which prompted sudden departure of President Ben Ali.

President Mubarak reshuffles his cabinet but fails to placate demonstrators, whose calls for his resignation grow louder. Days later he promises to step down in September. 2011 February – President Mubarak steps down and hands power to the army council. 2011 March – Egyptians approve package of constitutional reforms aimed at paving the way for new elections. 2011 April – Former President Mubarak and his sons, Ala and Gamal, are arrested on suspicion of corruption. 2011 April-August – Protests continue in Cairo’s Tahrir Square over slow pace of political change. Islamist groups come to the fore. Army finally disperses protestors in August. 2011 August – Former President Mubarak goes on trial in Cairo, charged with ordering the killing of demonstrators earlier in the year.

2011 October – Clashes between Coptic Christians and security forces kill 24 people. Egypt and Israel swap 25 Egyptians in Israeli custody for a US-Israeli citizen accused of spying. 2011 November – Violence in Cairo’s Tahrir square as security forces clash with protesters accusing the military of trying to keep their grip on power. Prime Minister EssamSharaf resigns in response to the unrest. Start of parliamentary elections. 2011 December – National unity government headed by new Prime Minister Kamal al-Ganzouri takes office. 2012 January – Islamist parties emerge as victors of drawn-out parliamentary elections. 2012 March – Pope Shenouda III, the veteran head of the Coptic Church, dies. 2012 April – Crisis in relations with Saudi Arabia over the Saudi detention of an Egyptian lawyer briefly threatens the substantial aid that the Saudis provide Egypt.

First free presidential poll

2012 May – Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Mursi tops the first round of voting in first free presidential elections, narrowly ahead of Mubarak-era prime minister Ahmed Shafiq. Official media put turnout at a low 43%. Military leaders announce the end of the state of emergency in place since Anwar al-Sadat’s assassination in 1981, as its last renewal expires. 2012 June – Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Mursi narrowly wins presidential election.Armyvs civilian rule Court sentences ex-President Mubarak to life in prison for complicity in the killing of protesters during the 2011 uprising. 2012 July – President Mursi submits to a Supreme Court ruling that the parliamentary elections were invalid, after initially ordering parliament to meet in defiance of a military decree dissolving it in June.

2012 August – New prime ministerHishamQandil appoints a cabinet dominated by figures from the outgoing government, technocrats and Islamists, to the exclusion of secular parties. Islamist fighters attack an army outpost in Sinai, killing 16 soldiers, and mount a brief incursion into Israel, highlighting the tenuousness of government control over the largely-lawless area. President Mursi dismisses Defence Minister Tantawi and Chief of Staff Sami Annan and strips military of say in legislation and drafting the new constitution. 2012 September – Egypt kills 32 militants and destroys 31 smuggling tunnels to Gaza in an offensive against militants who attacked troops in Sinai in August. 2012 November – Bishop Tawadros is chosen as the new pope of Egypt’s Coptic Christians.

President Mursi issues a decree giving himself extensive new powers. The decree sparks angry demonstrations and is condemned by Egypt’s top judges, who accuse him of undermining the independence of the judiciary. The Islamist-dominated constituent assembly tasked with writing a new constitution approves all 234 articles of the draft constitution, which boosts the role of Islam in Egypt’s system of government. The assembly session is boycotted by liberal, left-wing and Christian members. The vote is held earlier than originally scheduled, after Egypt’s constitutional court threatened to dissolve the constituent assembly.


Prospects for Democracy in Egypt:

There’s a conventional wisdom in the United States that Arabs are incapable of sustaining a true Western-style, liberal democracy. It will take them hundreds of years to acquire a “democratic culture,” the argument goes. And in the meantime new authoritarian regimes — either Islamist or military — will replace the ones that have been overthrown in the past year and give us all a lesson in “Arab democracy.” Advocates of this view were the first to announce, with all-knowing smiles, that the Arab Spring had become an Arab Winter. When Islamist parties won free and mostly fair elections in Tunisia, Egypt and Morocco in recent months, the proponents of this view had an “I told you so” moment and they were quick to denounce anybody who said otherwise as hopelessly naive.

After a prolonged hibernation, politics has broken out in Cairo, the capital of the Arab Awakenings. For the first time in six decades people are acquiring a taste for freedom and, yes, Western-style democratic politics. The issues they debate so vigorously are critical to the shape of Egypt’s democratic future: What will be the residual powers of the Egyptian military? What’s the best model for dividing powers between the Presidency and the Parliament? What revisions should be made to the Constitution to ensure democratic rule?

At the same time, the newly-elected parties are busy engaging in the horse-trading necessary to coalition politics, since no one party gained a majority (the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party won around 47 percent of the vote; the Salafi Al-Nour Party won 25 percent, and a variety of liberal parties won the rest.). We were treated to an amazing sight: Salafi religious purists attempting to negotiate an alliance with liberal secularists. How did they justify such a pragmatic deal?

The enemy of my enemy is my friend, one of them explained to us. They can both agree on a short-term political agenda: countering the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood and getting the army out of politics. And what about the imposition of Sharia law? The leader of the Salafi Al-Nour Party noted that his party is comfortable with the conservative nature of Egyptian society so a campaign to impose sharia law is unnecessary. They can be satisfied (at least for the time being) with the existing language of Article 2 of the Constitution which states that the “principles” of Islamic shariah will guide the state.

This kind of pragmatic politics is deeply disturbing to the “Costa Salafis” — a young generation of Salafis whose makeshift headquarters is in a Costa cafe. They denounce their elders not so much for being willing to compromise, which they readily accept as part of the new politics, but of failing to articulate through “fatwas” the religious basis for those compromises. It’s as if the Salafi leadership, propelled onto the political stage for the first time, has become unplugged and feels able to do whatever is necessary in the political realm to protect its community of social conservatives. They reminded me of the religious parties in Israel!

Meanwhile, the Muslim Brotherhood is busy making its own compromises with the military and with other liberal parties that would enable its Freedom and Justice Party to build a governing and empowered coalition (at the moment, they can control the parliament but until its powers are defined in the constitution and the military hands over power, they cannot control the government). Whereas the Salafis are looking to constrain the Muslim Brotherhood, the MB is focused on how to ease fears of its intentions.

After operating for eighty years in the political wilderness, the MB has learned just how fragile this moment could turn out to be. That’s why its leadership is more willing to compromise with the military than the other parties to its left and right. Consequently, the other parties fear that the MB will sell them out to the military in some sweetheart deal that compromises the revolution and their abilities to use democratic rules of the game to constrain the MB and hold the military accountable.

This tension will likely manifest itself in the massive demonstrations that are expected on January 25 in Tahrir Square to commemorate the first anniversary of the Revolution. The military and the MB have called for a celebration, complete with party balloons and patriotic songs. Youth activists and some liberal parties, particularly exercised by the eighty some demonstrators who were killed by the police and the army in crackdowns in November and December last year, are calling for a demonstration against military rule. Some of the far-left revolutionary youth are calling for a campaign of violence.

The way the January 25 demonstrations play out will be only one of the ways in which “square politics” and “party politics” interact in Egypt’s newly dynamic democracy. All the parties feel that they can claim legitimacy from the people’s mandates that they have received in the elections. This empowers them to stand up to the military in demanding that it leave the political arena promptly and allow Egyptian democracy to have its day. If the military focuses only on protecting its narrow interests (e.g., retaining its business interests, claiming immunity from prosecution for past actions, demanding only responsibility for protecting the state’s borders), then a reasonable compromise can be fashioned. However, if the military insists on specifying reserve powers in the constitution and protecting its budget from civilian oversight, then the people know the way back to Tahrir Square. As one newly-elected parliamentarian put it: “We are legitimate now; the army is not.”

And what about the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty? We didn’t raise the issue — they did. It came up in most conversations in the following way: “We have been elected by the people. We’re responsible to them. The people want stability, above all. They want the police back in the streets and calm and predictability restored to their daily lives. We don’t like the way Israel treats the Palestinians. We don’t like the price that Israel pays for Egyptian gas. But we’re not going to mess with the peace treaty.” That sentiment is so widely shared that one of the heads of the Muslim Brotherhood could declare to the New York Times last week that the peace treaty is a “commitment of the state,” and therefore will be respected.

The sense of responsibility that rests on the shoulders of those who would govern 87 million people is palpable. They know the severe economic straits that they will have to confront. They know that neither tourists nor foreign investment will return to Egypt unless there is a clear commitment to stability. And they know the people will not forgive them if they fail to address their basic needs for order, jobs and housing. In short, newly-elected Egyptian politicians — the Muslim Brotherhood first and foremost — understand that they have to make a choice between feeding the people and fighting Israel, and for the time being they have made a conscious choice of bread over bombs.

The fact that Palestine is not a priority for the Egyptian people has been manifest since the early days of the revolution. It was underscored for me during a lecture I gave at the American University in Cairo, just off Tahrir Square. A Palestinian student, draped in a Palestinian flag, stood with a makeshift banner in silent protest at the front of the hall. Despite this prominent reminder, during the ensuing ninety-minute Q&A session with students and journalists no-one asked a question about Palestine.

To be sure, there’s always the risk that populist politicians will outbid each other in their demagoguery on the Palestinian issue, especially if Israeli-Palestinian violence flares. But Israel is particularly sensitive to this possibility and the Muslim Brotherhood is apparently signaling its Hamas branch to keep things quiet too. (With 350 trucks a day passing from Israel into Gaza, and smuggling of weapons through the tunnels continuing apace, Hamas has its own reasons for maintaining the current de facto ceasefire with Israel.)

What was perhaps most striking to me, however, was the attitude of the new political class to the United States. I had expected to encounter hostility — after all the United States had been Mubarak’s staunch ally through the three decades of his Pharaohnic rule. I had assumed that the Islamist politicians in particular would be antagonistic towards American influence in post-revolutionary Egypt, just as the Iranian clerics have manifested intense antagonism towards the United States since their revolution.

Yet Egypt’s Islamists all seemed keen to engage with the United States government. The Muslim Brotherhood was trying to understand President Obama’s intentions in demanding that the military hand over power to civilian (i.e. Muslim Brotherhood) rule, “expeditiously.” They weren’t sure how to deal with the fact that Bill Burns, the Deputy Secretary of State, had just met with their leadership. But one thing they were very certain about — they need U.S. economic assistance and U.S. help in mobilizing international assistance. They were therefore quite anxious to know how Congress would treat them.

Because of this new U.S. Government engagement with their arch-rivals, the Salafis too are seeking American recognition. Their leaders are keen to come to Washington to explain their intentions. They even appear willing to engage with Israel to establish their bona fides — one of their leaders recently gave an interview to Israeli Army Radio.

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