The chairman of Egypt’s Constitutional Court on Sunday named the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi the winner of last weekend’s presidential election.
Morsi had already declared himself the victor ahead of the release of the official result to the chagrin of his challenger Ahmed Shafik who insisted that the vote had been close. Less than 52 percent voted for Morsi.
The former air force commander Shafik served as President Hosni Mubarak’s prime minister in the dying days of his regime. Mubarak resigned in February of last year in the face of mass demonstrations. Morsi and Shafik emerged as the frontrunners from May’s first round of voting which were the first free presidential elections in Egypt’s history.
Crowds on Sunday again turned out to Cairo’s central Tahrir Square, the stage of last year’s uprising, in anticipation of the election committee’s announcement. Unlike was the case during Egypt’s “Arab Spring” however, the square seemed filled not so much by young and liberal revolutionaries who favored neither of the presidential candidates but supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood who suspect that the military will not relinquish power to their newly-elected president.
Downtown Cairo was on edge before the results were promulgated. Armored vehicles were posted in the capital at the election committee headquarters while police were reportedly under orders to shoot protesters who approached government buildings.
The army has ruled Egypt on an interim basis since Mubarak’s resignation but has taken step in recent days to ensure that its position will not be undermined by a civilian government.
After parliament was dissolved last week by Egypt’s highest court because of voting irregularities, the generals reimposed martial law and announced that they instead of lawmakers would appoint a panel to rewrite the nation’s constitution. The powers of the Egyptian presidency will be redefined in this document, presumably limited now that Morsi has been declared the winner.
The army’s attempts to curtail the growing influence of Islamists may be quietly welcomed by Egypt’s religious minorities and women who believe that the Muslim Brotherhood seeks to impose Islamist law but secular and younger Egyptians are critical. They wanted a break with the past, something neither Morsi nor Shafik, in spite of their attempts to claim the mantle of the revolution, represented.