Karela Fry

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Egypt, the second step

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Egypt took a first step towards democracy with the demonstrations in 2011 which successfully threw out the government of Hosni Mubarak, and precipitated the Arab Spring. NYT reports on the second step:

Mohamed Morsi, 60, an American-trained engineer and former lawmaker, is the first Islamist elected as head of an Arab state. He becomes Egypt’s fifth president and the first from outside the military. But his victory, 16 months after the military took over on the ouster of Hosni Mubarak, is an ambiguous milestone in Egypt’s promised transition to democracy.

Following a week of doubt, delays and fears of a coup after a public count showed Mr. Morsi winning, the generals showed a measure of respect for at least some core elements of electoral democracy by accepting the victory of a political opponent over their ally, the former air force general Ahmed Shafik. “Today, you are the source of power, as the whole world sees,” Mr. Morsi said, pointing into the television camera, during his victory speech.

Mr. Morsi’s status as president-elect, however, does little to resolve the larger standoff between the generals and the Brotherhood over the institutions of government and the future constitution. Two weeks before June 30, their promised date to hand over power, the generals instead shut down the democratically elected and Islamist-led Parliament; took over its powers to make laws and set budgets; decreed an interim Constitution stripping the incoming president of most of his powers; and reimposed martial law by authorizing soldiers to arrest civilians. In the process, the generals gave themselves, in effect, a veto over provisions of a planned permanent Constitution.

Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, 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 Israel.

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.

Mohamed Morsy obtained a narrow majority, only about half the votes were for him, and about half the voters stayed away from the elections. TOI has a longer and more well-researched article, worth reading in full. An excerpt:

Half of those who voted in last month’s first round of the election backed neither Morsi nor Shafik and many who voted in the run-off voted negatively – either against Morsi’s religious agenda or against Shafik as a symbol of military rule.

Hamdeen Sabahy, the secular leftist who finished a close third behind Shafik in the first round, called on Morsi to “swiftly form a national presidential administration and a government that expresses national reconciliation and represents all currents and the diversity of Egyptian society powers”.

For Morsi a spokesman said: “This is a testament to the resolve of the Egyptian people to make their voice heard.”

Shafik, a former air force commander and Mubarak’s last prime minister, offered no immediate reaction. He has said he would offer to serve in a Morsi administration.

Morsi won the first round ballot in May with a little under a quarter of the vote. He has pledged to form an inclusive government to appeal to all the 82 million Egyptians.

Written by Arhopala Bazaloides

June 25, 2012 at 4:31 am

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