My colleague Barbara Slavin reports:
Mohammed Morsi of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood is the new president of Egypt, although his powers and term in office are likely to be limited. Results of a June 16-17 runoff announced Sunday after a laborious rendition of election challenges and decisions gave Morsi 52 percent of the vote to 48 percent for Ahmed Shafik, the last prime minister of ousted leader Hosni Mubarak. About 51 percent of eligible voters participated and nearly a million of the 26 million votes cast were disqualified.
The military council that has ruled Egypt since Mubarak fell on Feb. 11, 2011 has pledged to turn authority over to the new president by the end of this month. But the SCAF has also announced that it will assume some legislative powers since Egypt’s highest court ordered the dissolution of an Islamist-dominated parliament. The SCAF also says that it will appoint a new constituent assembly to write a new constitution, after which more elections must be held for parliament and president. So it remains unclear how much power Morsi will wield and for how long.
These uncertainties did not dim the celebration in Tahrir Square where tens of thousands of Egyptians exulted at what felt like the biggest success of their revolution since Mubarak’s resignation — the first free choice of a leader in Egyptian history. The implications for the region are also significant. Still, Morsi inherits a raft of crises topped by Egypt’s economic collapse and will need to unify a polarized country behind him to face the challenges ahead.
The White House, in a statement, congratulated Morsi on his victory and urged him to take steps to unify the country.
“We believe that it is important for President-elect Morsi to take steps at this historic time to advance national unity by reaching out to all parties and constituencies in consultations about the formation of a new government,” the White House statement said.
“We believe it is essential for the Egyptian government to continue to fulfill Egypt’s role as a pillar of regional peace, security and stability.”
Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations panel, praised the Egyptian people on the landmark in their democratic transition, and urged Morsi to show respect for minority and women’s rights and freedoms with actions, not just words. He also urged Morsi to maintain Egypt’s peace accord with Israel.
In recent “candid” conversations, Morsi has “acknowledged that the central issue to Egypt’s future is economic,” the Massachusetts Democrat said in a statement Sunday. He has also committed “to protecting fundamental freedoms,” such as women’s and minority rights, and “said he understood the importance of Egypt’s post-revolutionary relationships with America and Israel.”
Ultimately, however, “just as it is anywhere in the world, actions will matter more than words,” Kerry added.
Meantime, Turkey’s prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called Morsi to congratulate him on his victory, Turkish media reported.
The office of Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu also voiced respect for the outcome of Egypt’s polls and called for maintaining Israeli-Egyptian peace accords.
“Israel appreciates the democratic process in Egypt and respects its outcome,” a statement from the office of the Israeli prime minister said Sunday, Reuters reported.
“Israel expects continued cooperation with the Egyptian administration on the basis of the peace accord between the two countries, which is in the interest of the two peoples and contributes to regional stability,” the statement continued.
(Photo: Supporters of Muslim Brotherhood’s presidential candidate Mohamed Morsy gather as they await the result of Egypt’s presidential run-off elections in Cairo June 24, 2012. Egypt’s ruling armed forces were on alert on Sunday as fears of violence mounted in the final hours before the state election committee is to name the winner of last weekend’s presidential election at 3 p.m. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah.)