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Egypt elects first civilian president (THE GLOBE AND MAIL) SONIA VERMA 06/25/12) Source: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/egypt-elects-first-civilian-president/article4366609/
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The Arab Spring took a pivotal turn as Egypt elected its first civilian president, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi, whose win was celebrated as a victory for both Islamists and democracy, and hailed as proof that the two forces could go hand in hand.
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As the first democratically elected Islamist head of state in the region, Mr. Morsi, and more crucially, the Brotherhood, has also claimed the Arab world’s biggest prize – Egypt, its most populous and arguably most powerful state.
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It’s a remarkable feat for the long-banned organization, which for most of its existence has been outlawed by the long-serving secular and military dictators it sought to depose. Now, from prison and from exile, the Brotherhood has emerged as a leading political force across a huge swath of the Arab World from Morocco to Turkey.
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In Egypt, Mr. Morsi’s win of 51.7 per cent of the vote to 48.3 per cent for his rival, Ahmed Shafiq, Hosni Mubarak’s former prime minister, was tempered by the supremacy of the Egyptian army, whose generals have proved reluctant to loosen their grip on power while claiming to preside over the country’s post-revolutionary transition to democracy.
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Even Mr. Morsi’s victory, which was announced in Egypt on Sunday, was viewed as the result of a complex bargain with the military, which was officially supposed to cede power in two weeks time. Instead, it cemented its grip, dissolving Egypt’s democratically elected, Islamist-dominated parliament and usurping its legislative power.
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The extent of the new President’s power remains unclear. The army reimposed martial law just as the polls were closing in last weekend’s election, and decreed an interim constitution that stripped substantial powers away from the presidency.
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Hours after winning that ballot, Mr. Morsi vowed to represent all Egyptians, urging citizens to put aside their differences for the common good. He vowed to chart a course based on inclusiveness, seeking to fend off concerns of secular liberals and Egypt’s Coptic Christians over the repercussions of Islamist rule.
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“This national unity is the only way to get Egypt out of this difficult crisis,” Mr. Morsi said in a nationally televised speech.
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He also expressed gratitude to Egypt’s military rulers, whom he had previously denouced: “I must salute them because they have a role in the future,” he said. Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the chairman of the military council, in turn congratulated Mr. Morsi.
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Their mutual acknowledgement hinted at untold behind-the-scenes bargaining between the Brotherhood and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), the results of which have yet to be seen. Brotherhood leaders have vowed to continue their fight to restore the Parliament, which the SCAF has dismissed, suggesting lingering tensions.
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Mr. Morsi will have to struggle to represent those Egyptians who remained on the sidelines – the young, secular supporters who spearheaded the revolution, but refused to vote in an election they believed had been rigged by the military. Those who supported Mr. Shafiq, and the stability he represented, were dismayed by his loss. Only 51.6 per cent of eleigible voters turned out for a runoff between Mr. Morsi and the military’s favoured candidate, Mr. Shafiq.
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However, Mr. Morsi appears to have secured – at least temporarily – the blessing of some of his former critics.
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Egyptian novelist Alaa Aswany, a vociferous and influential critic of Mr. Morsi, congratulated him in an online statement: “Congratulations for the people of Egypt. The will of the people was able to topple the old regime once more. Long live the revolution.”
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Shady el-Ghazali Harb, a leader of the Jan. 25 protests of last year echoed those sentiments: “Congratulations because this means the end of the Mubarak state,” he said.
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There was mixed reaction from international leaders to Mr. Morsi’s victory. The White House congratulated him, but urged him to build alliances with non-Islamists: “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,” the statement read.
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Isreal’s reaction was significantly more cautious, reflecting a deep sense of apprehension over the ascendency of Islamist rule across the region. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outlined his expectations that Israel’s peace agreement with neighbouring Egypt would be respected. In Gaza, where the Brotherhood’s offshoot, Hamas, has ruled for years, rowdy celebrations erupted, with Palestinians shooting guns into the air.
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Mr. Morsi, for his part, promised to “preserve all national and international agreements.” He also vowed to protect the rights of women, children and religious minorities.
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In Tahrir Square, the birthplace of the revolution, fireworks lit up the sky, as Egyptians prayed, hoisted flags and brandished posters of their new president in carnival-like festivities that lasted late into the night.
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But even those celebrations were mitigated by the promise of more protest, with many vowing not to leave until Mr. Morsi’s full powers as their new president are restored by the military rulers who took them away.
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What they said:
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– Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he respected the results of Egypt’s democratic process and hoped the peace agreement would remain intact. “Israel expects to continue co-operation with the Egyptian government on the basis of the peace agreement between the two countries, which is of interest to the two peoples and contributes to regional stability,” he said.
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– “We look forward to working together with president-elect Morsi and the government he forms, on the basis of mutual respect, to advance the many shared interests between Egypt and the United States,” said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney in a statement. “We believe that it is important for President-elect Morsi to take steps at this historic time to advance national unity by reaching out to all parties and constituencies in consultations about the formation of a new government.” In an apparent reference to the peace treaty with Israel, Mr. Carney also said the Obama administration sees it as “essential for the Egyptian government to continue to fulfill Egypt’s role as a pillar of regional peace, security and stability.”
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– The Iranian Foreign Ministry issued a statement congratulating Mr. Morsi and what it called “the victory of the Egyptian nation in these elections.” In a statement on the Iranian Students’ News Agency, it also said: “The revolutionary movement of the Egyptian people ... is in its final stages of the Islamic Awakening and a new era of change in the Middle East. Iran had rocky relations with the ousted president, Hosni Mubarak, whose secular rule and relations with Israel put him at odds with Iran’s theocracy.
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– Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague congratulated Mr. Morsi and called on the new Egyptian government “to stand for national unity and reconciliation, to build bridges across Egyptian society and to uphold human rights, including the rights of women and religious minorities, and the rule of law.” He also said: “An inclusive government with the authority to take forward reforms, and a new Parliament and Constitution which represent the interests of all Egyptians, will be important steps in Egypt´s transition to democratic government.”
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– “We will look to Egypt to play a big, leading role, a historic role, regarding the Palestinian cause, in helping the Palestinian nation get freedom, return home, and totally end the Gaza siege,” Ismail Haniyeh, head of the Hamas government in Gaza, told Reuters Television. Hamas is a Palestinian offshoot of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood. Another Hamas official, Mahmud Zahar, told the Agence- France Presse that Mr. Morsi’s victory was “a historic moment and a new era in the history of Egypt” and “a defeat for the program of normalization and security co-operation with the enemy,” referring to Israel. (© Copyright 2012 CTVglobemedia Publishing Inc. 06/25/12)
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