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From prisoner to president

Engineer’s win breaks tradition of domination by men in armed forces

Written by Reuters | Cairo | Published: June 25, 2012 3:10:59 am

In a reversal of fortunes unthinkable a year and a half ago,an Islamist jailed by Hosni Mubarak has succeeded him as president of the biggest Arab nation in a victory at the ballot box which has historic consequences for Egypt and the Middle East.

The US-trained engineer Mohamed Morsi’s victory in the country’s first free presidential election breaks a tradition of domination by men from the armed forces,which have provided for every Egyptian leader since the overthrow of the monarchy 60 years ago,and installs in office the Muslim Brotherhood,a group that drew on 84 years of grassroots activism to catapult Morsi into the presidency.

“I will treat everyone equally and be a servant of the Egyptian people,” Morsi said at his campaign headquarters in Cairo,a week before his victory was confirmed by the Mubarak-era body overseeing the vote.

Ahmed Shafik,the former general he defeated,won nearly as many votes as Morsi,signalling that Egypt is a nation that is anything but united around the idea of Brotherhood rule.

That a man who served as Mubarak’s last prime minister was so close to victory has been seen as one sign of failure by the Brotherhood — which has described itself as the victim of a vicious campaign orchestrated by its enemies.

The Brotherhood has long been at the heart of the movement for democratic reform in Egypt,but he was a hard sell to many of those youth activists,who said his group was slow to join the anti-Mubarak uprising and who subsequently accused the Brotherhood of cosying up to the generals who then took over.

Morsi won few open endorsements from politicians and parties beyond the various Islamist factions,though the April 6 movement — one of the protest groups that ignited the anti-Mubarak revolt — was a notable exception.

“We face a decisive moment in our history,we must halt the farce of the former regime,” Morsi said in his last television interviews before the run-off. “We face a new era and we cannot allow the return of the former regime.”

What has he promised?

Morsi has promised a moderate,modern Islamist agenda,where autocracy will be replaced by a transparent government. In the last week of his campaign,he put in writing his promises of an inclusive administration,to protect media freedoms and the rights of minorities. He has also sought to reassure the military council about his intentions.

Brotherhood’s spare tyre?

The bespectacled 60-year old,appears something of an accidental president: he was only flung into the race at the last moment by the disqualification on a technicality of Khairat al-Shater,by far the group’s preferred choice. He has struggled to shake off his label as the Muslim Brotherhood’s spare tyre.

What powers will he have?

Morsi will not enjoy the extent of powers exercised by Mubarak: those have been curtailed by the military which will decide just what he will be able to do. Doubts remain over the extent to which Morsi will operate independently of other Brotherhood leaders: his manifesto was drawn up by the group’s policymakers.

What’s his stance on Religion?

He has promised an Egyptian renaissance with an Islamic foundation. Many Egyptians,not least the Christian minority,remain suspicious of Morsi and even more so of the group he represents. Anti-Brotherhood sentiment,fuelled by both a hostile media and some of the group’s policies,has soared in recent weeks.

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