Supporters of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Morsi celebrate in Cairo's Tahrir Square after the Brotherhood claimed victory in the presidential election on Monday.
CAIRO, Egypt – It could be the end of Egypt as we know it. Early, still unofficial, but credible results, show that the Muslim Brotherhood has won Egypt’s presidency.
However the military has made a series of decrees that threaten to usurp the new president’s power – setting the stage for a major showdown between the remnants of the old regime who make up the ruling military council and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Still, the biggest country in the Arab world is poised to start its first experiment in Islamic democracy.
Many Egyptians are celebrating – after all, a majority of voters elected the Muslim Brotherhood’s firebrand candidate Mohammed Morsi.
Other Egyptians are calling this a “black day” that will set back Egypt a hundred years.
Oh, that’s an exaggeration some Egyptians and Middle East analysts argue.
The Brotherhood will have to be answerable to future voters, they say.
Democracy will keep the group in check, they say.
The Brotherhood will be forced to adopt a center of the road policy, they say.
The Brotherhood is really quite moderate, they say.
Egypt will end up like Turkey, with an Islamist government, but secular laws, they say.
If Egyptians don’t like the Brotherhood, protesters can just go back to Cairo’s Tahrir Square and get rid of it, they say.
I wouldn’t count on it.
A power struggle is underway between the Egyptian military and the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood, which says its candidate, Mohammed Morsi, won the country's first free presidential election. NBC's Richard Engel reports.
Democracy if undemocratic group comes to power?
The Muslim Brotherhood is a fundamentalist group. It is anti-American at its core, despite recently sending delegations to the United States to win friends. The Brotherhood is vehemently anti-Israel. The group is also largely anti-democratic. The Brotherhood was happy to use elections to gain power, but it believes wholeheartedly in Islamic law, the immutable rulings from God that are not subject to ballot boxes or opinion polls.
If democracy brings an undemocratic group to power, is that a victory for democracy?
The Brotherhood has a few basic tenets which will likely be at the core of future policy, basic truths that shape its worldview.
- America is at war with Islam.
- Women are lustful creatures who need to be veiled and controlled.
- Israel is a temporary abomination that needs to be – and one day will be – excised from the world.
- Hamas, the Palestinian resistance group that the U.S. considers a terrorist group, is fighting a heroic struggle.
- Islamic law is fair to all minorities, including Christians since it proscribes tolerance and protection for people of “the book.” (Christians, by the way, don’t think they need to be “tolerated” or “protected” which they believe implies they are second class citizens who need to be accepted and defended like village idiots).
- Secrecy is tantamount.
- Victory comes through patience.
On the positive side, the Brotherhood is basically a working man’s group that supports Egypt’s legions of poor, often ignored by former President Hosni Mubarak. If Mubarak's former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik had won the election, Egypt would very likely have turned violent, with an unpredictable outcome.
I also wouldn’t count on Egypt ending up like Turkey. In Istanbul, women often dress provocatively and there are bars on nearly every corner. The country is economically booming. The Muslim Brotherhood is much more hard-line than Turkish Islamists.
AP Photo/Ahmed Gomaa
Mohammed Morsi and his supporters celebrate his apparent victory in the Egyptian presidential election at his campaign headquarters in Cairo, Egypt on Monday.
Brotherhood vs. military showdown
The Egyptian military is terrified of the Brotherhood. Morsi has repeatedly said he will purge all parts of Egyptian society of “remnants” of the former regime.
The military worries that once Morsi is sworn in, he will try to imprison or at least sideline senior military officers. Sunday night, as votes were being counted showing Morsi in the lead, the military launched a controversial preemptive strike.
In a decree that is very likely illegal, the military declared that the new president does not have the authority to declare war or remove military officers. The military declared its autonomy and immunity in a blatant attempt to castrate the new president before he takes office.
The power struggle between Morsi and the military that is now under way will likely take months to sort out. Morsi and the military will battle over the parliament, the constitution and Sunday night’s decree.
While it’s too early to know who will win this showdown, it seems unlikely that the military can hang on to its self-appointed authorities – as every Egyptian knows the kinds of powers a president should and should not have.
Ahmed Youssef / EPA
Egypt's popular uprising over 18 days of popular protest culminated in the downfall of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak on Feb. 11, 2011. CLICK ON THE PHOTO TO SEE A FULL SLIDESHOW
A new dawn
It’s a new dawn for Egypt. If the military truly feels threatened, it might stage a real coup, sending tanks into the streets, instead of what many Egyptians have called its attempted “soft coup,” through decrees and court decisions in recent weeks.
The Muslim Brotherhood talks about understanding and moderation. After declaring victory last night, Musri said he will be inclusive. Morsi wants to reassure Egyptians and Egypt’s allies that the country will remain stable. If pushed, however, the Muslim Brotherhood’s true colors will show.
Good luck, Egypt! Critical choices and potential major changes lie ahead.
Already Monday, Shafik’s campaign started contesting the early, unofficial results, as Egypt hangs in the balance.
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