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Morsy supporters celebrate.
Image: Reuters

New Egypt president begins building govt

Cairo, June 25, 2012

Mohamed Morsy of the Muslim Brotherhood sets about building a civilian administration for Egypt on Monday that can heal a divisive history of oppression and coax a mistrustful army into relaxing its grip on power.

Behind the scenes, talks were already under way between the Islamists and generals to resolve disputes that blew up this month over steps by the ruling military council to hem in the powers of the first freely elected president Egypt has known.

Cairo's Tahrir Square, theatre of the revolution that ousted Hosni Mubarak, exploded in joy - and relief - on Sunday as Morsy was declared the narrow but convincing winner of last weekend's presidential run-off against Ahmed Shafik, another scion of the military establishment which has ruled Egypt for 60 years.

The celebrations continued through an unforgettable night after Morsy won by 3.5 percentage points or some 880,000 votes.

Those in Egypt and beyond who feared a win for Shafik might have spelled the end of the Arab Spring acknowledged a triumph for the popular will, and for the army which accepted it. From Syria's opposition came word that Cairo was again a 'source of hope' for a people 'facing a repressive war of annihilation.'

But beyond the vast throng who waved their flags and chanted praises to God for hours on end on Tahrir Square, millions of Egyptians, and the Western powers, looked on with unease at the prospect of the long-suppressed Brotherhood making good on its dream of an Islamic state for the Arab world's biggest nation.

Among the most anxious were the young, urban revolutionaries who launched last year's uprising but saw their representatives knocked out in last month's first round vote, as well as diehard supporters of the old regime who fear for their privileges. Some Shafik admirers wept in fury that the army had 'betrayed' them.

Morsy, a 60-year-old engineer who studied in California and was jailed for his politics by Mubarak's secret police, took his first steps in public to quell some fears: 'I am today a president for all Egyptians,' he said in an address after what he called 'this historic moment, this luminous moment.'

He repeated his respect for international treaties - a gesture to Israel, which has fretted about its 1979 peace deal, and to Egypt's army, whose big US subsidy depends on it.

Barack Obama called him. 'The president underscored that the United States will continue to support Egypt's transition to democracy and stand by the Egyptian people as they fulfil the promise of their revolution,' the White House said.

The bearded Morsy, smiling occasionally, echoed that in his televised speech, saying he would work with others to see the democratic revolution through: 'There is no room now for the language of confrontation,' he said.

Morsy, an obscure party official before being catapulted to prominence by the disqualification of the movement's preferred candidate, has little choice but to compromise, and sources in the Brotherhood said a package of agreements, already discussed with senior generals last week, could soon be announced.

At daggers drawn for most of Egypt's modern history, the Brotherhood, an international model for many Islamist parties, and the army were drawn into a wary symbiosis once the military council pushed out Mubarak to appease the protesters and found in its long-banned enemy the most organised political force.

The Brotherhood, conscious of playing a long game, was ready to play its part in a transition. But cooperation frayed when the Islamists made a push for more control. They secured the lion's share in a parliament elected in January and, with the influence that offered over drafting a constitution, plus the presidency, would have been very much in the driving seat.

That was clearly too much for Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi and his Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. With the help of a Mubarak-era judiciary, SCAF dissolved parliament on the eve of the presidential election and then gave itself the legislative power, adding also a potential role in forming a panel to write the constitution. It also revived some powers for martial law.

Critics at home and in the West called it a 'soft coup.'

Senior Brotherhood officials say they have been negotiating in the past week to change some of that. Though both sides deny that any deal was struck over the result of the presidential vote itself, Morsy's election now sets a key reference point around which a power-sharing compromise can be built while the process of constructing a constitutional democracy goes on. - Reuters




Tags: Egypt | government | Brotherhood |

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