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News, June 2012
Muhammed Mursi Wins Egyptian Presidential Election, Army Tightens its Grip on Power
Egypt Islamists claim presidency as army tightens grip
By Marwa Awad and Yasmine Saleh
Monday, June18, 2012, 8:18am EDT
CAIRO (Reuters) -
Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood said on Monday its candidate won the country's first free presidential election, but a sweeping legal maneuver overnight by Cairo's military rulers made clear the generals planned to keep control for now.
An election committee source told Reuters that Islamist Mohamed Morsy, a U.S.-educated engineer, was comfortably ahead of former air force general Ahmed Shafik with most of the votes tallied. But the count, which would make him the first civilian leader in 60 years, had yet to be officially finalized.
In any event, however, the new president will be subordinate for some time at least to the military council which last year pushed fellow officer Mubarak aside to appease street protests.
In the latest twist on Egypt's tortuous path from revolution to democracy, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) issued a decree as two days of voting ended on Sunday which set strict limits on the powers of head of state. On the eve of the election, it had already dissolved the Islamist-led parliament.
Liberal and Islamist opponents denounced a "military coup".
"Military Transfers Power, to Military," ran the ironic headline in independent newspaper al-Masry al-Youm.
The Brotherhood, however, expressed its joy and defiance on the streets and may challenge moves by the generals that cast doubt on their pledge to hand over to civilian rule by July 1 - a promise supported by Egypt's U.S. and European allies, despite their deep misgivings about the rise of political Islam in the wake of the Arab Spring uprisings across the Middle East.
"Thanks be to God who has guided Egypt's people to the path of freedom and democracy, uniting Egyptians for a better future," Morsy, a former political prisoner, said in a victory speech in which he forswore seeking revenge or settling scores.
An aide to Shafik, Mubarak's last prime minister, refused to concede defeat and accused Morsy of "hijacking the election."
However, the source on the electoral committee told Reuters: "The results ... which show Morsy in the lead, reflect to a large degree the results tallied by the electoral committee."
The Brotherhood put Morsy ahead by 52 percent to 48 on a turnout of about 50 percent. Many supporters of candidates knocked out in last month's first round stayed home or spoiled their ballots in protest at a choice they saw as between going back to the old regime or a future religious state.
Hundreds of flag-waving supporters of the Brotherhood, whose members long suffered imprisonment, torture and death at the hands of the generals, gathered in Tahrir Square, where the anti-Mubarak revolution erupted in central Cairo 16 months ago.
"Thank God, we have got rid of military rule and the police state," said Mona Issam, one of a group of cheering women clad in long robes and full-face veils. "We hope Morsy takes power from the military council and the army goes back to barracks.
"God has given us victory. God stood by us and lifted the weight of oppression. We wanted an Islamic state. We lived like strangers in our land under the old regime. We were oppressed and Islam was not the law. I'm very, very happy. Thank God."
Hosni Qutb, a 45-year-old physician, derided Shafik as the "candidate of Israel", in reference to the military rulers' 33-year-old peace treaty with Egypt's Jewish neighbor. Israel fears growing hostility from Cairo and said an Israeli and two militants were killed in an attack on its border overnight.
"We got rid of the despot," said Mohammed al-Sayyed, 46. "Now we will live in freedom. There will be no arrests or prisons. The revolution has succeeded and we have got our country back."
However, the crowds hardly attracted notice in the morning rush hour and measured barely a drop compared the human sea that engulfed central Cairo on February 11 last year when Mubarak fell.
The 60-year-old Islamist candidate had attracted support from some who reject the Brotherhood's religious agenda and the imposition of Islamic law but were determined to bar the way to Shafik, 70, whom they see as the heir to the old regime.
But as Islamists celebrated, unemployed Mohamed Mahmoud, 28, did not share their joy: "I voted for Morsy but I can't say I'm happy," he said. "I'm still afraid of both and what they may do.
"I don't want an Islamic state or a new Mubarak state."
Political chaos has ravaged a vital tourist trade focused on pyramids and Red Sea beaches and the latest turn of events, by prolonging uncertainty, may further harm the economy:
"There is a bit more uncertainty now," said stock trader Teymour el-Derini at Naeem Brokerage. "We have a new president but it means nothing because he has nothing to do. I don't think we will have a huge sell-off, but there will be some sellers."
"SETBACK FOR DEMOCRACY"
The military council's "constitutional declaration", issued under powers it took for itself last year, was a blow to democracy, said many who aired their grievances on social media.
"Grave setback for democracy and revolution," tweeted former U.N. diplomat and Nobel peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei.
"SCAF retains legislative power, strips president of any authority over army and solidifies its control," he said.
"The 'unconstitutional declaration' continues an outright military coup," tweeted Abdel Moneim Abol Fotouh, a moderate Islamist knocked out in the first round of voting.
"We have a duty to confront it."
The order from Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, the chairman to the Supreme Council, indicated that the army, which also controls swathes of Egypt's economy, has no intention of handing substantial power now to its old adversary the Brotherhood.
The Brotherhood has contested the army's power to dissolve parliament and warned of "dangerous days" ahead. But few expect the Islamists, who were not in the vanguard of the revolt and spent much of the past year in uneasy symbiosis with the army, to launch a violent grab for power any time soon.
"This is the beginning of a very tough path," a senior Brotherhood official, Essam el-Haddad told Reuters, "The beginning of it is dealing with the amended constitutional declaration that strips the president of any real powers."
The failure of the new parliament to agree a consensus body to draft a constitution - liberals accuse the Islamists of packing the panel with religious zealots - has left Egyptians picking their way from revolution to democracy through a legal maze while the generals control the map and change it at will.
Under the latest order, writing of the new constitution may pass to a body appointed by the SCAF - if a court rules against the contested panel nominated by the now defunct legislature.
Any new constitution would need approval in a referendum, with a new parliamentary election following. By a timetable contained in the decree, it would take another five months or so to complete the planned "transition to democracy".
However, the experience of the past year has left many Egyptians doubting that the military, and what they call the "deep state" stretching across big business, Mubarak-era judges, security officials and the army, will ever hand over control.
"SCAF isn't going to transfer any real power," Marc Lynch, a Middle East expert at George Washington University said on Twitter of the constitutional order. "Back to the beginning."
(Additional reporting by Dina Zayed, Tom Pfeiffer, Edmund Blair, Alastair Macdonald and Samia Nakhoul in Cairo; Writing by Edmund Blair and Alastair Macdonald; Editing by Samia Nakhoul and Janet McBride)
Muslim Brotherhood claims Egypt presidency
France 24, June 18, 2012
By News Wires (text)
The Muslim Brotherhood declared early Monday that its candidate, Mohammed Morsi, won Egypt’s presidential election, which would be the first victory of an Islamist as head of state in the stunning wave of protests demanding democracy that swept the Middle East the past year. But the military handed itself the lion’s share power over the new president, sharpening the possibility of confrontation.
With parliament dissolved and martial law effectively in force, the generals issued an interim constitution making themselves Egypt’s lawmakers, taking control over the budget and granting themselves the power to determine who writes the permanent constitution that will define the country’s future.
But as they claimed a narrow victory over Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister Ahmed Shafiq after a deeply polarizing election, the Brotherhood challenged the military’s power grab. The group insisted on Sunday that it did not recognize the dissolution of parliament, where it was the largest party. It also said it rejects the military’s interim constitution and its right to oversee the drafting of a new one.
That pointed to a potential struggle over spheres of authority between Egypt’s two strongest forces. The Brotherhood has campaigned on a platform of bringing Egypt closer to a form of Islamic rule, but the military’s grip puts it in a position to block that. Instead any conflict would likely center on more basic questions of power.
Official final results are not due until Thursday, and Shafiq’s campaign challenged the Brotherhood claim, which was based on the group’s compilation of election officials’ returns from nearly all polling centers nationwide.
Women out in force for vote
But at their campaign headquarters, the Brotherhood officials and supporters were ebullient over the turn of fate. The fundamentalist group that was banned for most of its 80-year history and repeatedly subjected to crackdowns under Mubarak’s rule now held the chair from which their nemesis was ousted by last year’s 18 days of mass protests. The uprising was launched by secular, leftist young activists, joined only later by the Brotherhood’s leadership as millions took to the street, seeking an end to an authoritarian regime considered hopelessly corrupt.
In a victory speech at the headquarters, Morsi clearly sought to assuage fears of a large sector of Egyptians that the Brotherhood will try to impose stricter provisions of Islamic law. He said he seeks “stability, love and brotherhood for the Egyptian civil, national, democratic, constitutional and modern state” and made no mention of Islamic law.
“Thank God who led successfully us to this blessed revolution. Thank God who guided the people of Egypt to this correct path, the road of freedom, democracy,” the bearded, 60-year-old U.S.-educated engineer declared.
He vowed to all Egyptians, “men, women, mothers, sisters, laborers, students ... all political factions, the Muslims, the Christians” to be “a servant for all of them.”
“We are not about taking revenge or settling scores. We are all brothers of this nation, we own it together, and we are equal in rights and duties.” Morsi, who just before the two days of voting declared he “loves” the military, did not make show of defiance against the generals.
But some in Brotherhood were ready for a challenge. “Down with military rule,” the supporters chanted at the headquarters. The secular revolutionary group April 6, which helped launch the anti-Mubarak uprising, congratulated the Brotherhood on its win.
“The next phase is more difficult. We must all unite against the oppressive rule of the military council,” its founder Ahmed Maher said.
By the group’ count, Morsi took 13.2 million votes, or 51.8 percent, to Shafiq’s 48.1 percent out of 25.5 million votes with more than 99 percent of the more than 13,000 poll centers counted.
The count was based on results announced by election officials at individual counting centers, where each campaign has representatives who compile the numbers and make them public before the formal announcement. The Brotherhood’s early, partial counts proved generally accurate in last month’s first round vote.
The Shafiq campaign accused the Brotherhood of “deceiving the people” by declaring victory. A campaign spokesman on the independent ONTV channel said counting was still going on with Shafiq slightly ahead so far.
The Arab Spring uprisings have brought greater power to Islamists in the countries where longtime authoritarian leaders were toppled - but Morsi would be the first Islamist president. The Islamist Ennahda party won elections in Tunisia for a national assembly and it leads a coalition government, but the president is a leftist. Libya’s leadership remains in confusion and there is no president, though Islamists play a strong role, and an Islamist party is part of the coalition government in Yemen under a president who was once ousted leader Ali Abdullah Saleh’s deputy.
The question now will be how a Brotherhood president will get along with the military generals who have ruled since Mubarak fell on Feb. 11, 2011 and who will still hold powers that can potentially paralyze Morsi. The Brotherhood has reached accommodations with the generals at times over the past 16 months, as it struck deals with Mubarak’s regime itself _ gaining it a reputation among critics as willing to sell out for a taste of authority.
But after a highly polarized presidential election and the military’s arrogation of powers to itself, the Brotherhood presented itself as willing to get into a confrontation with the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the body of top generals headed by Field Marshall Hussein Tantawi, Mubarak’s defense minister for 20 years.
Just before the election, the military council, which has ruled since Mubarak’s fall, slapped de facto martial law on the country, giving military police and intelligence the right to arrest civilians for a host of suspected crimes, some as secondary as obstructing traffic. Then came Thursday’s ruling by the Supreme Constitutional Court dissolving parliament, followed by the interim constitution declaration just after polls closed Sunday following two days of voting.
According to a copy of the document obtained by The Associated Press, the generals would be the nation’s legislators and control the budget.
The president will be able to appoint a Cabinet and approve or reject laws. Notably, the declaration prevents him from changing the make-up of the military council and gives Tantawi the commander-in-chief powers that previously went to the president.
The generals will also name the 100-member panel tasked with drafting a new constitution, thus ensuring the new charter would guarantee them a say in key policies like defense and national security as well as shield their vast economic empire from civilian scrutiny. Parliament had been tasked with putting together the panel.
Under the document, new parliament elections will not be held until a new constitution is approved, likely meaning an election in December at the earliest. In the constitution-writing process, the military can object over any articles and the Supreme
Constitutional Court - which is made up of Mubarak-era appointees - will have final say over any disputes.
"In freezing the SCAF’s current membership in place and giving it such sweeping powers, the provisions really do constitutionalize a military coup," Nathan Brown, a professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University, said in an e-mail.
Earlier Sunday, the Brotherhood’s speaker of parliament Saad el-Katatni met with the deputy head of the military council, Chief of Staff Gen. Sami Anan and told him the group does not recognize the dissolution of parliament, according to a Brotherhood statement that pointedly referred to el-Katatni by his title.
El-Katatni insisted the military could not issue an interim constitution. He also said that a constitution-writing panel that the parliament formed just before the court ruling would meet in the "coming hours" to go ahead with its work.
Still, the Brotherhood has no power to force recognition of the parliament-created constituent assembly, which already seems discounted after parliament’s dissolution and is likely to be formally disbanded by a pending court ruling. Lawmakers are literally locked out of parliament, which is ringed by troops.
The generals, mostly in their 60s and 70s, owe their ranks to the patronage of Mubarak. All along, activists from the pro-democracy youth groups that engineered the anti-Mubarak uprising questioned the generals’ will to hand over power, arguing that after 60 years of direct or behind-the-scenes domination, the military was unlikely to voluntarily relinquish its perks.
The presidential race was a bitter one.
Shafiq, a former air force commander and an admirer and longtime friend of Mubarak, was seen by opponents as an extension of the old regime that millions sought to uproot when they staged a stunning uprising that toppled the man who ruled Egypt for three decades.
Morsi’s opponents, in turn, feared that if he wins, the Brotherhood will take over the nation and turn it into an Islamic state, curbing freedoms and consigning minority Christians and women to second-class citizens.
Trying to rally the public in the last hours of voting, the Brotherhood presented a Morsi presidency as the last hope to prevent total control by the military council of Mubarak-era generals.
“We got rid of one devil and got 19,” said Mohammed Kanouna, referring to Mubarak and the members of the military council as he voted for Morsi after night fell in Cairo’s Dar el-Salam slum. “We have to let them know there is a will of the people above their will.”
But the prospect that the generals will still hold most power even after their nominal handover of authority to civilians by July 1 deepened the gloom, leaving some feeling the vote was essentially meaningless.
“It is as if the revolution never happened,” Ayat Maher, a 28-year-old mother of three who voted for Morsi in Cairo’s central Abdeen district. “The same people are running the country. The same oppression and the same sense of enslavement. They still hold the keys to everything.”
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