When I interviewed Mohamed Morsy last year, I did not expect that he would be running for President and win the presidency just over a year later. I am not sure whether he expected to do so either, especially since he was not the first candidate the Muslim Brotherhood endorsed in this election. After all, at the time, he explicitly said that the Freedom and Justice Party — the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood — would not endorse a presidential candidate. However, given all of the other contradictory statements he and his party have made, it is not terribly surprising that the Muslim Brotherhood went back on their word, or that they have received as much support as they have.
Morsy has been declared Egypt's next president, but between him and Ahmed Shafik, it has been difficult to determine who is the lesser of the two evils. Mohamed Morsy, amicable in person and as a spokesperson for his party, is known for being a representative of his party rather than as an individual candidate. His party has not been forthright with Egyptians, given the various contradictions between their public statements and their actions. It is clear that their audience can dictate the stance they choose to highlight. For example, it was surprising to hear Morsy say in our interview that people are free to choose any religion, including no religion at all, given the Islamist underpinnings of his party’s ideologies. I doubt he would have said something like that before, say, an audience of Salafists.
Meanwhile, Ahmed Shafik is known for his ties with the Mubarak regime after briefly serving as Prime Minister after Mubarak appointed him in response to last year’s uprising. He is also infamous for being a primary suspect responsible for last year’s “Camel Battle” where armed thugs attacked unarmed protesters on camels and horses.
Two days prior to the runoffs in Egypt (the expatriate vote closed before the one in Egypt started), Egypt’s highest court dissolved the Muslim Brotherhood-dominated Parliament, delegitimizing the parliamentary elections. In what appears to be a last-minute attempt to delegitimize the Islamist Morsy, the military council SCAF has usurped most of the power from the title of “President” by amending the constitution such that the head of SCAF assumes the role of commander-in-chief, and the President is required to obtain permission from SCAF to declare war or respond to internal unrest. The timing at which SCAF released these amendments — during the counting of the votes when it became clear that Mohamed Morsy was the favored candidate — may reflect that he was not SCAF’s preference.
As for Egypt’s future, I do not expect much positive change to come from Morsy. The Muslim Brotherhood are notorious opportunists; while they have done much social work in anticipation of elections, when the time comes that assisting the poor no longer benefits their interests, I expect that it will no longer be a priority. Egypt requires that the basic needs and rights of its people be met before it can move forward; people need literacy, education, food, health, and shelter before social, political, and economic change can begin.
Shafik and the military would have been either more-of-the-same or worse than what Egypt was before Mubarak stepped down. We have already seen the military demonstrate flagrant violations of human rights in this so-called “transitional” period, and power will need to be removed from them in order for Egypt to successfully move forward.
Now that Morsy is confirmed as the Egyptian President, his party may push for sharia law to play a greater role in Egypt, and perhaps SCAF may occasionally concede, but ultimately with this constitution, SCAF’s generals will primarily be making the decisions. It remains to be seen what will happen with Egypt’s legislature. While the military has long had a powerful hand in Egypt, this augmentation of power through the constitution is contrary to the “interim” role the military was meant to play when they were formally handed power over Egypt. This will prove more difficult than before for Egypt’s revolution to move toward a functioning democracy, as the voice of the people seems to be markedly absent in this change.