Morsi's way


THE ELECTION of Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood as president of Egypt is an unequivocal affirmation of the direction in which the country’s people want it to travel. In backing the Brotherhood candidate, the first president from outside the military in the country’s history, the people have insisted that the revolution, which 16 months ago toppled Hosni Mubarak, will not be turned back – no matter what the military, whose candidate former general Ahmed Shafik was defeated, says about it.

The military’s decades-long dead hand on Egypt’s state and politics, reimposed last week in a pre-emptive “soft coup” against Morsi’s victory, must be shaken off by the new government in the months ahead. It will not be easy, but Morsi’s democratic mandate may well be the game changer.

But is the first election of an Islamist president in an Arab country also to be seen as a vote for Islamist rule, for a theocracy? Yes, says Iran. No, say Egypt’s Coptic Christians, liberals and secularists. And the answer appears closer to the latter. The election’s second round pitched Morsi against Shafik, a choice between the old regime and Islamism that left many who fought for the revolution in an acute dilemma. Many backed Morsi as a force for change, and his battle to displace the army’s iron grip will depend on maintaining a broad political base well beyond his natural constituency.

He has started well, at least in his declarations, reiterating the Brotherhood’s pre-election insistence that it wants to preserve a politics in which all Egyptians are comfortable, one akin to Turkey’s model where the increasingly politically neutered army has reached an accommodation with moderate Islam. Resigning from the Brotherhood on Sunday, Morsi pledged that the prime minister to be appointed – liberal Mohamed ElBaradei perhaps? – and an advisory council will come from outside the organisation and be the core of a unity government based on a renewed alliance with liberals and secular activists.

He also extended a hand to the Copts, under recent violent attacks from Salafist-led mobs, and made a welcome promise to uphold all international agreements, an apparent reference to Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel.

Moderate Islamist parties have now won majorities in Tunisia and Morocco, and are likely to do so in Libya. Egypt, the region’s most populous country and historically its natural leader, has, likewise, confirmed the trend, a landmark in the Arab Spring’s remarkable transition to summer.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Screen Name Selection


Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.