Brotherhood win neutered by Egypt's army

Tue, Jun 19, 2012, 01:00

EGYPT’S MILITARY pre-empted yesterday’s announcement by the Muslim Brotherhood that its candidate Mohamad Morsy had won the presidential election by transforming the country’s new president into a lame duck before the official proclamation of the result of the weekend run-off election.

His rival, Ahmed Shafik, a military man who was the last prime minister in the ousted regime, also claimed victory. He said the Brotherhood had declared false results and accused the movement of violating electoral laws.

According to the election commission’s provisional tally carried by the country’s state and independent media, Mr Morsy took 51.89 per cent of the vote while Mr Shafik won 48.10 per cent.

Although Mr Shafik was reported to be ahead in the capital with 57.7 per cent against Mr Morsy’s 42.3 per cent, this was not enough to offset his gains elsewhere. The outcome is not set to be declared formally until Thursday.

In an address to supporters, Mr Morsy promised justice for families of the 846 people killed during the 2011 uprising that toppled former president Hosni Mubarak.

In a bid to reassure Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority, Mr Morsy pledged that the Copts would be part of “his family”. He said he was not seeking “revenge” against opponents and vowed to strive for “a civil, democratic, constitutional, and modern state”.

Several hundred Brotherhood backers gathered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square to celebrate Mr Morsy’s triumph. However the vast majority of Egyptians remain uneasy about the future of their country which has been increasingly polarised between secularists and Muslim fundamentalists, young revolutionaries and people seeking stability.

As the counting of ballots began late on Sunday, the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces proclaimed itself commander-in-chief and assumed legislative powers due to the dissolution by the high court of the lower house of parliament.

The council took control of the state budget and declared that if the commission appointed to draft a constitution was deemed unfit, the military would replace the panel.

It said a fresh parliamentary election would be held in December after the constitution was approved by a referendum.

These decisions, introduced as amendments to a disputed March 2011 constitutional declaration, effectively strip the Brotherhood, the country’s most effective political movement, of nearly half the seats in the lower house, control of constitutional commission and, if Mr Morsy is proclaimed president, most executive authority.

Council spokesman Gen Mamdouh Shaheen attempted to counter criticism and mollify the confused public by announcing that the military remained committed to its promise to hand over to the newly elected president by the end of this month.

The Muslim Brotherhood pronounced the military move “null and void” while Nobel laureate Muhamed ElBaradei called the SCAF declaration a “grave setback for democracy”.

Editor-in-chief of Ahram Online Hani Shukrallah told The Irish Times the new president would have “no de jure powers, no de facto powers” and no legal means of fighting the military’s takeover.

Furthermore, he noted that if Mr Morsy triumphed over Mr Shafik by only 2 per cent, it would be obvious the Brotherhood “does not have much popular support . . . The vote showed that people hated Shafik more than it loved Morsy.”

In Shukrallah’s view, Egypt is in “for a very hard time constitutionally, legally and politically.” However, he expressed the hope the crisis “will force [secular revolutionaries] to get together. They have to engage in deep thinking. So far they have been amateurish and lacking in political savvy, hopefully they will learn from their mistakes.

“A ‘third way’ [an option other than the military or the Brotherhood] has become urgent.”