“Egypt‘s benchmark stock index closed up 7.6 percent,” AP reports, “in its largest single-day gain in nine years thanks to investor optimism following the declaration of a victor in presidential elections.”
But analysts are more pessimistic about prospects for the country’s democratic transition, despite reports that the Muslim Brotherhood has approached secular reformist Mohamed ElBaradei, a former U.N. diplomat and Nobel peace laureate, to take a senior post, perhaps as prime minister.
Many liberal and secular activists fear that the election of Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi as the nation’s first Islamist president will reinforce the country’s main illiberal forces: the military and the Brotherhood itself.
”At the symbolic level, it is important: Mursi is the first democratically elected Islamist President of the Arab world, and also Egypt’s first civilian President,” wrote Issandr El-Amrani, of the Arabist blog.
Morsi’s election “does little to resolve the larger standoff between the generals and the Brotherhood over the institutions of government and the future constitution,” David K. Kirkpatrick reports for the New York Times:
Two weeks before June 30, their promised date to hand over power, the generals instead shut down the democratically elected and Islamist-led Parliament; took over its powers to make laws and set budgets; decreed an interim Constitution stripping the incoming president of most of his powers; and reimposed martial law by authorizing soldiers to arrest civilians. In the process, the generals gave themselves, in effect, a veto over provisions of a planned permanent Constitution.
But other observers believe the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces will revive its uneasy alliance with the Islamists and turn against the groups pushing for genuine transition.
“Both SCAF and Brotherhood have [economic] interests in cracking down on mobilization in the street especially over the next months,” said Ziad Akl, a senior analyst at Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies.
The military and the Brotherhood will probably negotiate an accommodation, says Khalil al-Anani, an expert on Islamist movements at Britain’s Durham University.
“We are heading towards what might be the most important stage of the Egyptian transition,” since the fall of Hosni Mubarak in February 2011, he told Agence France Presse.
“Morsi has a very strong legitimacy to ask for more powers for the presidency… and at some point the military and SCAF will have to compromise with him,” he said.
The armed forces reportedly want Morsi to be sworn in to office by June 30, meeting the SCAF’s own deadline for returning Egypt to “civilian rule,” an objective that will require intensive negotiations on the details of any such transfer of authority.
“President Morsi and his team have been in talks with the military council to bring back the democratically elected parliament and other issues,” Essam Haddad, a senior Brotherhood official, told Reuters:
Brotherhood sources told Reuters they hoped the army might allow a partial recall of parliament and other concessions in return for Morsy exercising his powers to name a government and presidential administration in ways the army approves of – notably by extending appointments across the political spectrum.
Military officials have confirmed discussions in the past few days but had no immediate comment on the latest talks. The Brotherhood has, movement officials said, approached secular reformist politician Mohamed ElBaradei, a former U.N. diplomat and Nobel peace laureate, to take a senior post, possibly as prime minister. ElBaradei has not commented.
Brotherhood officials have said they will press on with street protests to pressure the army but this, along with a number of other contentious issues including to whom and where Morsy swears his oath of office, could be settled soon.
“Nobody should doubt there is going to be deal-making,” said analyst Shadi Hamid, director of the Brookings Doha Center. “The (SCAF) still has the tanks and guns and the Brotherhood still understands that. There has to be some temporary power-sharing agreement. There has to be give and take.”
Other commentators believe that Morsi lacks the charisma, intelligence and drive to implement the reforms required to revive Egypt’s economy and restore the integrity of government.
He is a little lacklustre, not very charismatic and there are fears that it’s going to be a weak presidency,” says Hisham Kassem, a veteran publisher and democracy advocate.
Morsi’s authority is also undermined by “the fact that it was not him, like Khairat al-Shater would have, who pulled the Brotherhood into a victory as much as it’s the Brotherhood that has taken him into a victory,” Kassem told Al Jazeera (above).
“The challenges are very strong,” said Mohammed Habib, a former deputy chairman of the Brotherhood who worked closely with Morsi. “Everyone is watching him through a microscopic lens.”
Asked if Morsi had what it takes to overcome those challenges, Habib said, “No, he doesn’t.”
Morsi has a reputation as a religious conservative and a company man, an enforcer for the group who brooks little internal dissent. During the campaign, he portrayed himself as a defender of strict religious values one minute, a moderate courting liberals the next — doing little to burnish his reputation. ……… Leaving aside Egypt’s all-consuming problems, especially its sputtering economy, Mr. Morsi will face specific governing challenges, especially enlisting partners from other parties who have been reluctant to work with the Brotherhood and dealing with the groaning state bureaucracy bequeathed to him by Mr. Mubarak.
“Morsi is an accident of history. He’s a fairly unremarkable guy,” Shadi Hamid, a fellow at the Brookings Doha Center, tells the New York Times. “I guess the real question is, can he change?”
Morsi faces scrutiny over his relationship with the Brotherhood. He resigned from the group on Sunday, but many people believe his years in the organization mean his ties to it will persist. During his campaign, Mr. Morsi never made a major decision without the approval of the Brotherhood’s guidance council. Mr. Shater, the group’s leading strategist whose disqualification led to Mr. Morsi’s running, is seen as especially influential.
“This is not like running a party or a group,” Mr. Habib said. “This is very big.”
Mr. Habib said Mr. Morsi would have to deploy “reconciliatory rhetoric,” to coax former presidential candidates like Hamdeen Sabbahi, a leftist, or Abdel-Moneim Aboul Fotouh, a former Brotherhood leader, to work with him. “He must strengthen his relationship, and restore the confidence of the national parties,” Mr. Habib said. “Otherwise they will cause him trouble and pull the carpet from underneath his feet.”
“He has a chance to become his own man, but he has to distance himself from the Brotherhood,” Mr. Hamid said. “At some point, Mr. Morsi is going to start making his own decisions, and sooner or later, there will be tensions between Shater and Morsi.”
The Brotherhood also inherits a presidency that has been robbed of its key prerogatives by the military’s recent constitutional decree, Egyptian democrats complain.
“[The decree] means that the SCAF has become a state above the state, with wide legislative and executive powers, a veto on constitutional and other political matters, and stands immune to any challenges,” said Amr Hamzawy, a former liberal MP.
Furthermore, the high court judgment that dissolved parliament effectively conferred legislative and executive authority on the SCAF until a new assembly is elected.
“The Constitutional Declaration is a complete turn against the revolution and it makes the president a mere affiliate of the military council and extends the transitional period indefinitely,” said author Alaa El-Aswany.
“It is depressing to consider that Egypt’s first free elections, those for the parliament in November-December 2011, have now been tossed into the dustbin,” says Michele Dunne, the director of the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East:
Sad that the presidency might end up being decided in a SCAF-Brotherhood negotiation instead of an honest reflection of the will of the voters—who, by the way, had no idea when this process started on May 23 that they were voting for a president with such limited powers. Frightening to think what all of this does to the confidence of Egyptian citizens in their infant political processes.
Given the vagaries of the SCAF’s “Etch-a-Sketch” transition plan, Egypt will become “a hard hat zone,” says Dunne, as “things are likely to get worse before they get better.”