ISSN 2330-717X

A New Historical Era Has Begun In Egypt – OpEd

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By Mohyeddin Sajedi

The election of Mohamed Morsi as the president of Egypt has averted a serious threat to the country, as the potential victory of Mubarak-era Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq in the campaign could have sparked a new tide of bloody protests that could entangle Egypt in a deep internal crisis.

“Low-fat presidency” is a title used in almost all the assessments of the recent Egyptian election as well as the authorities of the elected candidate. The reason behind the description is that the ruling military council wields almost all the executive power, while the new president is obliged to take oath before the body and he is not authorized to even endorse the country’s budget or change the formation of the council.

The military council has used the absence of parliament, dissolved upon a court order, as a pretext to hold its grip over the key elements of power. The military council has in fact portrayed itself as Egypt’s legislative body. The situation, however, is not sustainable as the council has already pledged to hand over the power to the president-elect. Moreover, the parliamentary elections are set to be held in Egypt and the body will assume the legislative tasks. Reference should also be made to Egypt’s new constitution, whose respective council has not been formed yet.

The majority of the lawmakers of the dissolved parliament still reject the court order and contend that Morsi should take his oath of office before the parliament and its speaker. The first problem is expected to surface at this point; where Morsi is going to take oath is yet to be seen.

Even with a consensus on the time for the next parliamentary elections and formation of a council to write the new constitution, Egypt’s ruling military council would still be able to hold its sway in the country’s legislature and executive body. Morsi is the first elected president of Egypt, who has not been a member of the country’s armed forces.

Morsi’s presidential victory does not solely rest upon votes cast by Muslim Brotherhood supporters; youth as well the Salafist blocs also voted in his favor to prevent Ahmed Shafiq, the last prime minister under Hosni Mubarak, from scoring against him.

Nevertheless, Brotherhood plays the most outstanding role in Egypt’s political arena, and Morsi’s win will deal the last blow to Nasserism — an Arab nationalist political ideology – which lost luster under former Egyptian president Anwar Sadat and Mubarak.

Morsi’s close neck victory over his rival in the presidential run-off vote is evidence for bipartisan structure of the Egyptian society. Not all votes recorded for Shafiq came from Egypt’s wealth and power centers, which came into existence under deposed Hosni Mubarak.

The result of Egypt’s presidential run-off election is reminiscent of the French vote. Yet, no one can expect violent clashes between the supporters of French presidential contenders as the European country, unlike Egypt, does not have a bipartisan society.

It is also possible that the remnants of the Mubarak regime who meant for Ahmed Shafiq to win and have still maintained their influence in the Egyptian army and security system, will try to rekindle the unrest in order to weaken Morsi and pave the way for a military state or martial law. The signs of such conspiracy are already on the horizon. The military council has authorized the military and police forces to arrest anybody they want; a situation which is reminiscent of 30 years of “state of emergency.”

In addition to solving security, economic and social problems in Egypt, perhaps, the most important step which should be taken by Morsi is to prove himself as the president of all Egyptian people in order to reduce possibility of further unrest in a bipolar society. He left both the Muslim Brotherhood and its affiliated party – Justice and Freedom – immediately after winning the election in order to prove that he does not belong to a single group or faction. The extent to which the public will believe his gesture will depend on practical steps that he will take in the country.

It is evident that Morsi will give priority to domestic issues of Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood branches in Palestine (Hamas), Jordan and Syria have hailed his election, hoping that new Egypt will support them, and Morsi will try to build confidence beyond Egypt’s borders. Perhaps, the Camp David Accord is more controversial than any other foreign issue. For the time being, Morsi will surely leave it alone. Israel, however, should accept that Egypt has changed.

Finally, Morsi will strengthen ties with powerful Middle Eastern states and this is why Iran and Turkey are happy with his election. On the other hand, Saudi Arabia should now think of all the huge money it spent in vain to help Ahmed Shafiq win the election.

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