Islamist’s win in Egypt leaves U.S. uncertain / Obama congratulates Morsi, confers with rival (WASHINGTON TIMES) By Ashish Kumar Sen 06/25/12)
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Egyptians celebrated Sunday the election of their country’s first
freely elected president - Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood,
who becomes the first Islamist head of state of the Arab world’s most
Spontaneous displays of jubilation erupted throughout the capital,
Cairo, after Egypt’s election commission announced that Mr. Morsi had
defeated Ahmed Shafiq, who served as prime minister before longtime
President Hosni Mubarak was ousted last year.
Commission Chairman Farouk Sultan announced in Cairo that Mr. Morsi
won 51.7 percent of the vote and Mr. Shafiq 48.3 percent in the June
16-17 runoff election that followed last month’s presidential
Mr. Morsi assumes a post that has been largely stripped of authority
by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the military panel that
has been ruling Egypt since Mr. Mubarak was forced to resign amid
Arab Spring protests.
Uncertainty over the Brotherhood’s intentions, especially how it will
handle relations with the U.S. and Israel, has created unease in both
White House spokesman Jay Carney offered congratulations to Mr. Morsi
and the Egyptian people for “this milestone in their transition to
“We believe in the importance of the new Egyptian government
upholding universal values, and respecting the rights of all Egyptian
citizens - including women and religious minorities, such as Coptic
Christians,” Mr. Carney said.
“The United States intends to work with all parties within Egypt to
sustain our long-standing partnership as it consolidates its
democracy. We believe it is essential for the Egyptian government to
continue to fulfill Egypt’s role as a pillar of regional peace,
security and stability.”
Mr. Obama called both Mr. Morsi and Mr. Shafiq on Sunday.
According to a White House readout of the call with Mr. Morsi, the
U.S. president congratulated him and “underscored that the United
States will continue to support Egypt’s transition to democracy and
stand by the Egyptian people as they fulfill the promise of their
In a separate phone call, Mr. Obama commended Mr. Shafiq on a “well-
run campaign” and “encouraged [him] to continue to play a role in
Egyptian politics by supporting the democratic process and working to
unify the Egyptian people,” the White House said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Jewish
state “appreciates the democratic process in Egypt and respects its
Questions about the future
Mr. Morsi, who received a doctoral degree in engineering from the
University of Southern California and has two children who were born
in the United States, has criticized Egypt’s relationship with the
“The Brotherhood has been clear that the strategic relationship, as
it was configured under Mr. Mubarak, was not good for Egypt,” said
Steven Cook, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in
Under Mr. Mubarak, Egypt received about $1.3 billion in annual U.S.
aid, most of it intended for the military.
Brotherhood leaders also have spoken in favor of dissolving Egypt’s
33-year-old peace treaty with Israel.
Noting that there will plenty of pressure on the Egypt-Israel
relationship, Mr. Cook doesn’t expect Mr. Morsi to break the peace
treaty outright, saying “he can do a lot to empty whatever there is
of the relationship of any content and meaning.”
Sen. John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,
said there are serious questions about the future direction of
Egypt’s foreign policy. But he warned that it would be a mistake for
the U.S. to pull back from its engagement with a free and democratic
“This is a time to test intentions, not to prejudge them,” said the
On recent visits to Cairo, Mr. Kerry said he had two “candid
discussions” with Mr. Morsi in which the new president-elect had said
he “understood the importance of Egypt’s post-revolutionary
relationships with America and Israel.”
The election polarized Egyptians, who worried about Mr. Morsi’s
Islamist credentials and saw Mr. Shafiq as an extension of the
On its official Twitter feed, the Brotherhood announced that Mr.
Morsi had begun talks to form his presidential team and a new
Cabinet “that will truly represent Egypt after revolution.”
“It’s time now for unity and hard work to face challenges ahead,” the
Mr. Morsi kept a pre-election promise by resigning Sunday from his
posts in the Muslim Brotherhood, including that of chairman of its
Freedom and Justice Party. He also has pledged that his leadership
will be inclusive.
Mr. Morsi “will have to have to act as a catalyst for Egyptians so
they can move ahead with drafting a ‘civic’ constitution,” said
Khairi Abaza, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Foundation for
Defense of Democracies and a former member of the Egyptian Wafd Party.
“Failing to do so can only lead to more chaos and instability,” Mr.
The Muslim Brotherhood had been banned in Egypt since 1954, but its
candidates participated in elections as independents.
Both Mr. Morsi and Mr. Shafiq earlier claimed victory in the
election. The election commission then delayed a final announcement
to investigate fraud claims made by both candidates.
The delay triggered protests by Morsi supporters who suspected that
the military was trying to steal their candidate’s victory.
“There really wasn’t a question of whether the results were in
dispute. The question was what are the rules of the road going
forward between the Brotherhood, President Morsi and the military,”
said Mr. Cook, author of “The Struggle for Egypt.” “Clearly, some
sort of deal has been struck.”
Earlier this month, Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court ruled that
the Islamist-dominated parliament must be dissolved because a third
of its members had been elected illegally.
In a separate decision, the court rejected a law enacted by the
parliament that prohibited former senior members of the Mubarak
regime from running for office. That ruling paved the way for Mr.
Shafiq to challenge Mr. Morsi.
In addition, the military gave itself powers that curbed the
president’s authority and put the generals in charge of overseeing
the writing of Egypt’s new constitution.
It also reinstated an emergency law that expanded police powers and
suspended constitutional rights.
Analysts interpreted these moves as an attempt by the military to
hedge against a Morsi victory, and State Department spokeswoman
Victoria Nuland said last week that they “appear to prolong the
military’s hold on power.”
On Sunday, Mr. Carney commended the military for supporting “a free
and fair election.” • Dave Boyer contributed to this report. (© 2012
The Washington Times, LLC. 06/25/12)
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