Jun 27, 2012

Islamists and Military Face-off in Egypt

Chuck MisslerBy Dr. Chuck Missler
Koinonia House

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While former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak lay in a coma in a military hospital, the new president, Islamist Mohamed Morsi, took his place in the presidential office Monday. Demonstrators filled the streets in celebration of Morsi, but also in protest of the court's dissolution of the parliament. The military council is scheduled to hand over power to the new president July 1st, but Egypt is promised no smooth transition.

Mohamed Morsi

Egypt's Future Still Uncertain

The Muslim Brotherhood has officially won the recent Egyptian elections in a tight, polarizing race, with Morsi being declared the victor on Sunday. It is not certain, however, what the election of the Muslim Brotherhood leader will mean for the future of Egypt. The fact that Islamists will allegedly be in charge is not the issue at the moment. In the past several weeks, the ruling Egyptian military removed many of the powers of the president, claiming for themselves the rights to draft the new permanent constitution and control the national budget. Pro-Mubarak judges also recently dissolved the parliament, claiming that the parliamentary elections half a year ago were decided unfairly. Tens of thousands of protestors have gathered in Tahrir Square to celebrate Morsi's victory and demand that the parliament be reinstated.

The military-supported Prime Minister Kamal el-Ganzouri resigned on Monday and will be replaced when Morsi nominates a new man to the position, but the new president and military will remain in deep and delicate negotiations to determine the specific borders of authority between the president and the country's established military. The military claims the recent limitations placed on the presidential power were meant to last only until the new constitution had been written (by the generals).

The Mubarak regime waged a constant war to keep down the Muslim Brotherhood during the past three decades, and Morsi was once imprisoned under the former president. Now, the tables are turned. The ailing Mubarak will likely soon die in prison, having been sentenced June 2. Mubarak's sons, Gamal and Alaa, grieved in prison over the election of the man once incarcerated under their father.

"Gamal and Alaa reacted with shock and tears at Sunday's announcement that the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsi was Egypt's new president," security sources were quoted as saying by the state news agency MENA.

In the meanwhile, Ahmed Shafiq, Morsi's opponent in the elections and Mubarak's last prime minister, left the country amid allegations he wasted public funds during his post under Mubarak. He flew to Abu Dhabi with his family after the election, supposedly as part of a brief pilgrimage to Mecca. At least 24 lawsuits have been filed against Shafiq, and the courts expect to question him on 11 of them.

In the West, the news of the Muslim Brotherhood's victory was met with outward optimism. The United States, the European Union, France and Britain, all expressed approval of the open and free democratic elections that led to Morsi's victory. Allegations of voter fraud from both sides had delayed the announcement of election results, but with Shafiq's concession and recent escape, there appears no concern about any contestation of the results.

Israel did not express great enthusiasm at the election results. It is uncertain how well the new Egyptian government will cooperate with Israel, which has faced constant anarchy in the Sinai since the fall of Mubarak. With all its troubles, Egypt has at least maintained a peace with Israel for more than three decades. The Prime Minister's Office released a short statement after Morsi's victory, saying, "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 West now must work with a religiously-based regime in Egypt, one that holds to a fundamentalist form of Islam. Yet, for now, it is clear the many factions in Egypt will force the Muslim Brotherhood into a balancing act, promising to keep the new regime from pushing the country into strict Islamic legalism.

"This election was both democratic and legitimate despite some problems...", said Denis Bauchard of the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI). Islamist parties also won victories in Tunisia and Morocco, which "shows that the Muslim Brotherhood has become an undeniable player in the region, at least for now. The Western powers have to recognize them as negotiating partners."