Egypt’s Presidential Election Commission announced Sunday that Mohamed Morsi has been elected Egypt’s next president. He won with almost 52 percent the vote, prevailing in the runoff with Ahmed Shafiq, a former air force commander and prime minister under ousted president Hosni Mubarak.
When sworn in, presumably by June 30, Morsi will become Egypt’s first freely elected president. The vote is seen as a triumph for Egyptians who in late January of last year rose up against 30 years of authoritarian rule hoping to usher in new era of freedom and democracy.
To emphasize the point, Morsi addressed the nation on state television after his victory was announced. “I stand here today as the first democratically elected president of Egypt,” he said.
Thousands of Egyptians returned to Tahrir Square Sunday, but not to continue protesting; instead to celebrate a victory.
Morsi was the candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood, which spent 80 years as an opposition movement that was outlawed under the Mubarak regime. Morsi’s supporters flooded into Tahrir waving Egyptian flags and hoisting pictures of their president-elect.
“Morsi is one of the symbols of the revolution. He was in the square on January 25 (the beginning of protests) and he was imprisoned before. He is qualified for the position,” said Rameya Ali, who was among those celebrating at the square. “Plus he has the support of the Freedom and Justice Party and the Muslim Brotherhood who are established institutions” (the Freedom and Justice Party is the Brotherhood’s political wing).
But not everyone agrees Morsi was the candidate of the revolution or that he will unite the country. Many of the activists who led the uprising last year suspect that the Brotherhood is now in collusion with the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) which has been ruling Egypt since Mubarak’s ouster and promising to restore civilian authority in the country. Omar Bahkri, a visual artist, says he believes the SCAF struck a deal with the Brotherhood when it became clear that Morsi was emerging as the winner. “There was a sort of battle coming and the Islamist guys were preparing the weapons and they were preparing their army,” says Bahkri. “But I think they both realized the destruction would be too great. So they cut a deal. I just hope [the Brotherhood] doesn’t use the same methods of the old regime.”
With Morsi’s win, some fear an Islamization of Egypt. Since stepping out of the shadows the Muslim Brotherhood has been promising social and legal changes that not all Egyptians are comfortable with. Sitting in a rooftop bar on the other side of downtown, Zakeria Al-Hadi says he doesn’t want religion in his government. “I’m actually against the theocracy type of regime,” says Al-Hadi. “There is no transparency about the structure of the group. They have a history, a bloody history, of being against liberalism in society.”
Many Egyptians seem more excited about having elected a president, than about Morsi himself. “I’m very happy. People are celebrating that democracy has finally come to Egypt,” said Maged Shahin.
Many echoed Shahin’s sentiments and said there was now an opportunity for the country to move forward. “It relieves the country from being under military rule for over one-year-and-a-half now. The whole country feels relief that the power is now in civilian hands,” says Khaled Sheir, an engineering student. “We can start working together, hopefully, on building this new country.”
While fireworks exploded in the sky and many chanted Morsi’s name, calls also echoed through Tahrir Square for the SCAF to step down.
Just days before the election, Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court – many believe under the SCAF’s influence – dissolved the country’s recently elected parliament, and then, as the ballots were counted in the presidential runoff, the SCAF issued a series of decrees essentially stripping the presidency of much of its authority and affording itself new powers. Earlier, the Justice Ministry had given the military broad powers to arrest civilians. The SCAF has been promising to hand over full control to a civilian government by July 1, but some remain skeptical about its true intentions.
In Tahrir Square, many say they will continue to protest until the controversial decrees are reversed and the parliament is reinstated. “This is not just a celebration, this is a protest,” said one young man just outside the square. “Our protest will continue until the decrees are declared void and the president has all his authority, and the law, which allows military police to arbitrarily arrest us, is reversed. Until all these demands are met, we are staying in Tahrir Square.”
Rebecca Collard is a journalist covering Israel, the Palestinian Territories and the region. She's worked in the Middle East since 2007 covering political, cultural and social stories for print, television and online media.