Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood won Sunday’s presidential runoff in Egypt, alleviating fears of massive rioting on the streets in Cairo but setting the stage for the largest Arab country to potentially face more political confrontations between Islamists and secular military supporters who oppose Egypt moving towards an Islamist state.
Morsi defeated Ahmed Shafik, the last prime minister to serve after deposed leader Hosni Mubarak during last week’s run-off election. Morsi captured 51.7% of the votes compared to 48.3% for Shafik.
A large crowd of cheering Muslim Brotherhood supporters gathered at Tahrir Square on Sunday to hear the election results, enduring 97 degree Fahrenheit heat in the hot Cairo sun and promising to continue the struggle to take power from military generals who have supreme control across Egypt.
Earlier in the day, the Muslim Brotherhood announced that it would stage a long-term protest if Shafik was declared the winner. The Egyptian military received authorization to use force if necessary to quell any uprisings from Brotherhood supporters.
Hosni Mubarak ruled Egypt for three decades using strict military control until he was eventually ousted in 2011 during a violent uprising that inspired the Arab world.
After Mubarak was deposed in 2011, the military council gained control and ruled Egypt, portraying themselves are reform minded inheritors of the revolution that deposed Mubarak.
Recently, the governing council took new measures to limit the powers of the Egyptian presidency.
On June 15th Egypt’s highest court dissolved the country’s Islamist-led parliament, claiming the law under which it had been elected was unconstitutional.
Two days later, military generals issued a declaration giving themselves full legislative powers, including drafting control of the Egyptian constitution.
Morsi represents a more conservative voice within the Muslim Brotherhood. He is an engineer who has no military background.
Morsi was educated in the United States and received his Ph.D. from USC in 1982. He was an assistant professor at Cal State Northridge from 1982 to 1985. Although Morsi is western educated, he has spoken about moral decay in the United States, especially with younger Americans.
Morsi claims to support a tolerant constitutional democracy in Egypt where women’s rights are equal to men.
However, he has also spoken about the need for an Islamic state with a council of Muslim scholars to advise parliament. Morsi insists that Islamic law bars women and non-Muslims from running for president.
Morsi once referred to Israeli leaders as “vampires” and “killers” but he has softened his tone and said that for now the Brotherhood is committed to Egypt’s 1979 peace treaty with Israel.
Most Egyptian scholars are in agreement that Morsi remains firmly committed to the principles of the Muslim Brotherhood and the notion that Islam should play a very significant role in politics.
The United States along with European nations, and Israel, are concerned about Islamist momentum gaining traction in Egypt although they support the democratic process that has taken root in Egypt following Mubarak’s ousting in 2011.
Besides giving billions in financial aid, they have also pressured the military to adopt democracy, while urging the Muslim Brotherhood to respect all Egyptians’ rights, including the rights of Christians and non-Muslims.