The Egyptian electoral commission has announced that Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party has won the presidential election runoff, beating the independent candidate Ahmed Shafik, the last Prime Minister to the deposed dictator Hosni Mubarak, with 13.2 million votes out of 26 million, a share of 51.2 per cent on a turnout of just over 50 per cent. The result, however, does not settle the standoff between the Brotherhood and the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which did not even wait for the result before taking a series of steps which some Egyptians have called a constitutional obscenity. One crucial move was made by the constitutional court, made up of judges from the time of Mubarak, which unilaterally dissolved the national parliament. That body, elected between November 2011 and March 2012 in Egypt’s first-ever free polls, was to write a constitution for the new state. SCAF, for its part, has gone even further, awarding itself powers to veto changes in the constitution, to propose legislation, and to detain civilians and deploy the military at times of what it calls internal unrest; it would also retain control over the armed forces and have a veto on declarations of war.
In such a situation, it is far from clear what the newly elected President’s powers are to be, or what powers the military will relinquish, despite SCAF’s respective statements that they will hold their powers until a new parliament is elected and that they still intend to hand over to the new President on June 30. Discussions between the Brotherhood and SCAF have produced no decisive outcome. SCAF’s conduct is certainly ominous. The first implication is that the military fear losing control over major political decisions and the major institutions of state; in addition, their silence over economic issues is very telling in view of the economic dominance they have built up over a very long period. SCAF may not be acting solely on its antipathy to the Brotherhood, but even if it is now talking with the latter with a view to avoiding outright confrontation, what it is revealing is much more dangerous — namely its fear of democracy itself. The Brotherhood, on the other hand, is yet to show how it will reconcile its Islamism with the requirements of representative democracy. For the millions of Egyptians who endured savage repression for decades and then brutal violence when they rose against the erstwhile dictatorship in 2011, the democratic election of a President is a major step forward. But they will have to be on guard against the remnants of the old order, for the durable, broader transition they struggled for is still some distance away.