For six decades, the President of Egypt had always been from the military. And for half that time, it was one man, Hosni Mubarak, a former air force chief, who hounded and jailed members of Muslim Brotherhood.
Now, with Saturday’s swearing-in of Mohamed Morsi, a Muslim Brotherhood man, as Egypt’s first Islamist president, ‘the tables are turned’, says Edmund Blair of Reuters. Soon, the military would have to listen to this now-official people’s representative.
Standing between the generals, soon after he was sworn in, this first freely-elected civilian leader said, “The Egyptian people and the … world are witnessing a unique model, not seen before, of how power is transferred from the Egyptian military forces by the will of the people to an elected, civilian power.”
It is truly a momentous occasion for Egypt and for democracy. But where will Egypt go from here? Will Morsi lead Egypt to regain its past glory? Will his promise – to grant members of armed forces and police all powers necessary to keep the security of Egypt – really prove beneficial to the struggling nation? Will this former engineering Professor engineer a way out, for Egypt, from the current quagmire?
Well, on the surface, it looks like he will. He seems to have a mind of his own with a dedication that is evident from his words.
He had himself sworn in, on Friday, at Tahrir Square, pre-empting a court ceremony, and warning off generals trying to curb his powers. He had praised Muslims and Christians alike in front of crowds and tried to win the hearts of those Christians not in favour of the brotherhood. He had promised dignity and social justice and swore to uphold the constitution.
Most importantly, Morsi had just resigned from the Brotherhood to take up this top job. And he had said that he has plans to change his pro-Hamas, anti-Zionist, anti-Copt tune to transform Egypt into a truly democratic nation.
But the Iranian news agency Fars published a report last week which raised concerns in the West and the Middle East. Fars reported that Morsi was planning to “reconsider” the peace deal with Israel and would build ties with Iran to “create a strategic balance” in the Middle East.
It is no surprise, therefore, that according to Israeli daily Haaretz, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has sent a letter to the new President Mohamed Morsi, urging him to maintain peace between the two countries.
Three months ago, when I stayed in Cairo for a while, on my way to Gaza with a delegation from the Royal Charity Organisation of Bahrain, I spoke to some common people like taxi drivers and hotel workers. Though many seemed confused about their future, a majority expressed that they want the Muslim Brotherhood.
Apart from a good cabinet of ministers, Morsi needs an effective Prime Minister. Gregg Carlstrom and Evan Hill had written in Al Jazeera’s website that, “Even if Morsi appoints a prime minister satisfactory to his erstwhile ideological opponents, he is walking a tightrope. Revolutionaries have grown extremely disenchanted, resentful and often enraged with the Brotherhood, seeing it as a devious, authoritarian and secretive society that took advantage of the revolt to push its own conservative religious agenda”.
Quite clearly, it will be a tight-rope walk for this Islamist leader to satisfy the Christians within his country, and also to keep good relations with the Jews from the neighbouring country, without angering the Islamists on whose ideology he was raised-up on.
So, he must shed the image of being a hard-line Islamist first, if Egypt has to be seen as a country governed by a level-headed civilian leader, after almost 60 years.