Egypt Elections 2012 Abroad Assignment

Tens of thousands of Brotherhood supporters and their allies against military rule gathered in Tahrir Square for the sixth day of a sit-in, demanding that the military roll back its power grab. Around 3:30 p.m., hushed crowds gathered around portable radios to hear the election commissioner’s rambling introduction of the official result.

Then they leapt to their feet: Mr. Morsi had won 51.7 percent of the runoff votes.

“Morsi, Morsi!,” the crowd chanted. “Down, down with military rule!”

Smiling riot police officers put down their helmets to exchange congratulations with bearded protesters. Beaming Brotherhood supporters streamed in, the crowd to perhaps 100,000 by nightfall. In a carnival atmosphere, fireworks were set off and vendors hawked cotton candy or threw pieces of fruit into the laughing crowd.

After 84 years as a secret society struggling in the prisons and shadows of monarchs and dictators, the Brotherhood is now closer than ever to its stated goal of building an Islamist democracy in Egypt. “In my dreams, I wanted this to happen, but it is unbelievable,” said Hudaida Hassan, a 20-year-old from Menoufiya who was rejoicing in the square.

Brotherhood leaders emphasized that their struggle was far from over. They promised to continue the sit-in and fight on in the courts and the streets to reinstate Parliament. In his short first statement as president-elect, Mr. Morsi vowed to take the oath of office before the reseated Parliament, and not the Supreme Constitutional Court, as the generals had decreed.

Field Marshal , the chairman of the military council, congratulated Mr. Morsi. The official presidential guard, which once protected Mr. Mubarak, arrived at Mr. Morsi’s home to take up their new role. Until 16 months ago, their appearance at the home of a Brotherhood leader could only mean a trip to one of Mr. Mubarak’s jails. Mr. Morsi himself was jailed for a time in 2008 and again during the revolt last year against Mr. Mubarak.

State television, long a wellspring of propaganda against the Brotherhood, broadcast Mr. Morsi’s victory speech on Sunday. In it, he pledged repeatedly to be “a president for all Egyptians.” He quoted the first Muslim caliph to describe his authority in Islamic terms, but he also extended a hand to Egypt’s large Coptic Christian minority, many of whom remain dubious of him. “We as Egyptians, Muslims and Christians, are preachers of civilization and building; so we were, and so we will remain, God willing,” he said. “We will face together the strife and conspiracies that target our national unity.

“We are all equal in rights, and we all have duties towards this homeland,” he added. “But for me, I have no rights, I have only duties.” He also repeated his pledge to uphold all international agreements, an apparent reference to Egypt’s peace treaty with .

The Coptic Church formally congratulated him, calling the election a victory for democracy.

Fulfilling a campaign promise, Mr. Morsi resigned on Sunday from the Brotherhood and its political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party. He is expected to appoint a prime minister and cabinet in the next few days. He has promised that the prime minister and an advisory council would come from outside the Brotherhood as part of a unity government based on a rebuilt alliance with liberals and other secular activists.

At the same time, however, Mr. Morsi has always campaigned not as an individual with a vision of his own but rather as an executor of the Brotherhood’s platform. He was the group’s second-choice nominee, put forward after the disqualification of its leading strategist and most influential leader, . Mr. Morsi, a close friend and protégé of Mr. Shater’s, has vowed to carry out the “renaissance” program that Mr. Shater devised to overhaul Egypt’s ministries. The two did little to dispel the assertions of critics that Mr. Shater and the Brotherhood’s board would wield the true power in a Morsi government.

Even after the two-month presidential campaign, Mr. Morsi remains an unfamiliar figure to most Egyptians. He was living and working in during the tumultuous period after Islamic militants assassinated and his successor, Mr. Mubarak, cracked down on the Brotherhood. Those who knew him in America say Mr. Morsi never appeared notably political or religious. But he became a leader in the Brotherhood after his return to Egypt, and he won election in 2000 to the Mubarak-dominated Parliament, and was chosen to lead the Muslim Brotherhood’s small bloc of 18 members, playing a key role in the group’s experiments in multiparty democracy and coalition-building. But as he rose in the leadership, he gained a reputation as a conservative enforcer, known for discouraging dissent.

Five years ago, when the Brotherhood adopted a draft party platform that called for barring women and non-Muslims from the presidency, Mr. Morsi was a chief defender of the controversial planks, inside and outside the group. He argued that Islam required the president to be a male Muslim, in part because the head of state should promote the faith.

Since Mr. Mubarak’s ouster, the Brotherhood has jettisoned those proposed restrictions from its platform, but during the campaign Mr. Morsi said that he personally still thought that only a male Muslim should hold the office.

Even so, the jubilation and relief at Mr. Morsi’s victory swept up not only Brotherhood supporters, but also some more secular Egyptians who had stayed on the sidelines of the Brotherhood’s tug of war with the military. Alaa al-Aswany, a writer who campaigned against Mr. Morsi before the runoff and has been a sharp critic of the Brotherhood, wished him well on Sunday. “Congratulations for the Egyptian people,” Mr. Aswany wrote in an online commentary. “The will of the people was able to topple the old regime once more. Long live the revolution.”

Inside the prison where Mr. Mubarak’s sons and former allies are being held, there was “sadness and tears” at the election result, the Web site of the state newspaper Al Ahram reported. It said, however, that Mr. Mubarak himself, now under guard in a hospital, reacted stoically.

Early in the week, when the vote counts were still unofficial, Mr. Shafik had declared himself the true winner of the election, but on Sunday he sent Mr. Morsi a congratulatory telegram, wishing him luck with “the difficult task assigned by the Egyptian people,” a Shafik spokesman said.

Mr. Morsi’s designation as president-elect will hand the Brotherhood and its more secular and liberal allies an important megaphone in their struggle for power with the military. Mr. Morsi will become the chief figure negotiating with the generals on behalf of both the group and its allies, Brotherhood officials say.

“I feel like there is hope again,” said Mohamed Ahmed, 20, an activist with the secular April 6 Youth Movement, one of many demonstrating with the Brotherhood in Tahrir Square. He was celebrating, he said, but not because he supported Mr. Morsi. “I hate Ahmed Shafik,” he said. “He is from the old regime.”

called Mr. Morsi to congratulate him and offer support, the White House said in a statement. A separate statement urged the generals to speed the transition to democracy and recalled Mr. Morsi’s pledges of inclusiveness: “We believe in the importance of the new Egyptian government upholding universal values, and respecting the rights of all Egyptian citizens — including women and religious minorities such as Coptic Christians.”

Mr. Obama also telephoned Mr. Shafik to commend him on his campaign and to encourage him to help “unify the Egyptian people,” the White House said. Official reaction in Israel was muted; Israeli officials have watched events in Egypt with trepidation over the past year and a half, reflecting concern that a new government would reassess the peace treaty that Egypt’s generals have long honored. In the , governed by the militant Islamist group , an offshoot of the Brotherhood, wild celebrations broke out on Sunday. Celebratory gunfire accidentally killed a 24-year-old man and wounded two girls in Rafah, near the border crossing to Egypt.

Mr. Morsi’s victory is unlikely to end the fierce polarization of Egyptian society. Many of the young secular and liberal activists who started the revolt against Mr. Mubarak have come back together to support the Brotherhood against the military’s grab for power, but older secular political leaders are more divided.

A counterprotest in support of the ruling generals reportedly grew to 10,000 people Saturday night, and a group of lawmakers who call themselves liberals held a televised news conference to declare their support for the generals and for the dissolution of the Brotherhood-led Parliament.

The secular politicians accused the Brotherhood of “hijacking” the revolution, called the group a threat to the “civil” character of the state, and charged that the Brotherhood would impose religious rule.

And incongruously, given Washington’s history of antagonism toward the Islamists of the Muslim Brotherhood, the secular lawmakers argued that the had improperly tried to sway the presidential race in Mr. Morsi’s favor. American officials and diplomats say the United States supported only the democratic process, regardless of the election’s result.

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CAIRO — Egyptian authorities confirmed Saturday that a political coalition dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, the 84-year-old group that virtually invented political Islam, had won about 47 percent of the seats in the first Parliament elected since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak. An alliance of ultraconservative Islamists won the next largest share of seats, about 25 percent.

The military council leading Egypt since Mr. Mubarak lost power last February has said it will keep Parliament in a subordinate role with little real power until the ratification of a constitution and the election of a president, both scheduled for completion by the end of June.

But the council has assigned Parliament the authority to choose the 100 members of a constitutional assembly, so it may shape Egypt for decades to come, although the military council has sometimes tried to influence that process.

The election results were expected because of preliminary tallies after each of the three phases of the vote, but the confirmation comes in time for the seating of Parliament on Monday.

The tally, with the two groups of Islamists together winning about 70 percent of the seats, indicates the deep cultural conservatism of the Egyptian public, which is expressing its will through free and fair elections for the first time in more than six decades.

But the two groups have described very different visions and appear to be rivals rather than collaborators. The Brotherhood has said it intends to respect personal liberties and will focus on economic and social issues, gradually nudging the culture toward its conservative values. By contrast, the ultraconservatives, known as Salafis, put a higher priority on legislation on Islamic moral issues, like the consumption of alcohol, women’s dress and the contents of popular culture.

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