Mohamed Morsi and Muslim Brotherhood Face Challenge From Egyptian Military

Soon after the Egyptian election commission’s unendurably long press conference on the results of the country's presidential election, the White House released a statement congratulating President-elect Mohamed Morsi. Similar announcements poured in from around the world, cementing the Muslim Brotherhood’s victory with the seal of international recognition. Notably absent from the cacophony was the Israeli government.

Morsi is posed to become the first Islamist head of an Arab state and Egypt’s first non-military president. His victory is a mixed bag for many Egyptians as well as many foreign countries. The victory of a former Mubarak-era political prisoner is Obama-esque in its symbolism, but less rosy are the implications of an Egypt governed by the Muslim Brotherhood, which has been compared to Mubarak’s former National Democratic Party for its strict hierarchical structure and refusal to accept criticism.

Brotherhood leaders have threatened in the past to end the peace treaty with Israel and reject aid from the United States. The organization has offshoots around the world, including Hamas in the Gaza Strip, which the U.S. State Department categorizes as a terrorist organization. Despite promises to govern in the name of all Egyptians, its positions on personal freedoms, especially those for women and religious minorities, are less than reassuring.

Nonetheless, a popular refrain in Egypt during the past few months was: give the Brotherhood a chance to govern so that they will fail and lose their popularity. Those who now idolize the Brotherhood, the thinking goes, will see that they are no better than any other politician. The precipitous drop in the organization’s popularity since the November parliamentary elections could be seen as proof of that phenomenon.

It remains uncertain, though, how much power Morsi will actually be able to exercise in the coming months and years. The ruling military council’s pre-election maneuvers essentially stripped the presidency down to a figurehead position and the fight, anyway, is now over the constitution. Long-time enemies, the Brotherhood and the military have been coordinating to some extent since the revolution, sparking widespread discontent. A Morsi presidency just means that their brokering will now take place in more formal channels, likely to the exclusion of the revolutionary youth, liberal and Left movements.