The Telegraph’s Cairo reporter Richard Spencer cited the congratulations Egypt’s new president Mohammed Morsi has been receiving from the Iranians, the Emirates, the U.S., the British, Hamas, and even Israel, commenting wryly that it’s “as if the Muslim Brotherhood were just any other party, Mohammed Morsi just another politician, and Egypt any other democratic country.”
They’re not, of course, and while the winner is declared and the celebrations in Egypt’s squares cannot be ignored, it isn’t clear what, exactly, has Morsi won. Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) has dissolve Egypt’s People’s Assembly even before the vote last weekend, and announced that no matter who the winner would be, the Army would remain in charge of decisions such as when to go to war and against whom.
Not a promising situation for a president who is expecting to also take over as commander in chief.
The Muslim Brotherhood, for its part, and its leader Morsi, have announced their refusal to take the oath of office in front of the Supreme Constitutional Court, as called for by the supplementary constitutional declaration. There is speculation that Morsi is planning to swear the oath of office in Tahrir Square, before the people, in a truly populist gesture.
Al Jazeera quoted Ibrahim Youssef, a 23-year-old English teacher from Mansoura, north of Cairo, who said that Morsi indeed had to come to Tahrir, to show the world and the Egyptian elite that his power came from the people, not from the military or the state apparatus.
“I’m from the Brotherhood, but if Dr Mohammed Morsi refuses to respect these votes, I will refuse him,” Youssef said. “I will come to Tahrir Square if he refuses to respect the people’s desire.”
A statement from the Prime Minister’s Office in Israel said tacitly that “Israel appreciates the democratic process in Egypt and respects the results of the presidential elections. Israel looks forward to continuing cooperation with the Egyptian government on the basis of the peace treaty between the two countries, which is a joint interest of both peoples and contributes to regional stability,”
The Israeli statement did not sound joyous, naturally, especially in light of the fact that when Morsi’s supporters, during the campaign, spoke of recreating the Muslim Caliphate with Jerusalem as its capital, he didn’t bother to distance himself from the slogans, despite the fact that they constituted a call for aggression against a neighbor with whom Egypt has cohabited in peace for 33 years.
On Sunday evening, Morsi declared he had a “message of peace. We will respect all international agreements,” he promised, but stopped short of actually mentioning that one agreement with Israel on which the region’s future hangs.
In the past and during the campaign, Brotherhood leaders have said they would never meet with Israeli officials. But they were careful to say they would not cancel the peace treaty. But they intend to amend it, most crucially to permit a significant number of Egyptian troops into the Sinai.
Israel actually favors this change, because it wants Egypt to control the smugglers and the terrorists who are roaming the peninsula.
In an article for the London Guardian newspaper last week, Morsi depicted himself as man of the people: “I was jailed by the old regime. I belong to the middle classes that were sold out by the old establishment. I hold political and social views that are shared by many in our society but were suppressed or criminalized by the old regime. I understand the ambitions, values and standards held by many mainstream Egyptians.”
And until he takes office and the dust settles on Egypt’s struggle with its own fledgling democracy, he’ll keep the rest of us guessing.