Monday, June 25, 2012


Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood is the winner of the first competitive presidential election in Egypt. Maybe he could be considered an italicized president. With 51.7% of the runoff votes, his victory over the former air force general Ahmed Shafik is a narrow one. The military leaders have also pre-emted a powerswap by shutting down the democratically elected and Islamist- led Parliament. They hijacked the presidential power to make laws and set budgets, and decreed an interim constitution stripping him of most of his powers.  Martial law was reimposed.
Mr. Morsi resigned from the Brotherhood and made a victory speech which was remarkable for its inclusive, conciliatory tone. He finds himself "sandwiched" between a base which still largely adheres to a theocratic mayhem and the military/secular opposition which showed  an astonishing staying power.  The outcome in the long-term remains a new riddle in the serial political saga of Egypt.  I think we should wish the president-elect well and hope that confidence-building signals be given from both sides so that we might see a Turkish rather than an Iranian scenario developing in the future.
Egypt needs an urgent transfusion of investment, capital, tourism and services to overcome what has been a prolonged cardiac arrest.  Morsi, an engineer who studied at the University of Southern California, looks like an ordinary, unremarkable man.  He will be under great pressure to reinstate unconditionally the Parliament, which could put him immediately on a collision course with the military.  The Brotherhood has been shunned for decades, which will make it hard to translate conciliatory rhetoric into action and to coax former ennemies to work with him.  It will require tact and savoir-faire to avoid a "coup," and to restore confidence, being his own man rather than becoming the hostage of the Brotherhood's Guidance Council.  Mubarak's regime also survives its former Rais and will have to be reckoned with.  The masses in Tahrir Square will not be satisfied with merely having a figurehead president.   They want more Islam, not less.  On the other hand, their social and economic demands are legitimate and they will, understandably, not tolerate that the former plutocrats might find a safe haven under the military's umbrella.  This revolution has not reached the finish line yet,  it is just beginning.  The new president needs to be supported by the West, until further notice. The military should be encouraged to stay in their barracks and to respect pluralism as much as Morsi pledged to do so.  Egypt is an impatient country which is not in a waiting mood. All sides need to understand that change cannot be reduced to cosmic arrangements. The United States can consider playing more the soft-power card and push for democracy with all actors involved. The EU has here a trump card to play as well, as it did years ago when the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) exercise looked like more than the empty promise it became.  Egypt needs a shot in the arm if we want to avoid the masses in Tahrir Square becoming too polarised and repeating the fate of so many revolutions or social upheavels in the past, which started with legitimate grievances, but ended up in indiscriminating bloodbaths. It would be wise to follow the events with an open mind, remaining circumspect but also ready to help if the change warrants a generous trust.

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