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Egypt’s New President Faces Power Struggle with Military

In this image taken from Egypt State TV, newly-elect President Mohammed Morsi delivers a speech in Cairo, Egypt, Sunday, June 24, 2012.
In this image taken from Egypt State TV, newly-elect President Mohammed Morsi delivers a speech in Cairo, Egypt, Sunday, June 24, 2012.
A researcher with Human Rights Watch (HRW) predicts the power struggle in Egypt will continue between the Muslim Brotherhood and the military council.

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This despite the announcement of the election of Islamist Mohammed Morsi as winner of the presidential run-off vote.

Morsi was officially announced the winner with 52 percent of the vote against Ahmed Shafiq, an official tied to the regime of ousted President Hosni Mubarak.

Heba Morayef based her conclusion on moves by the military and what some see as military-influenced courts in recent months to roll back the power of Islamists, who also won a majority in parliamentary polls earlier this year. In early June, The Supreme Constitutional Court announced that the procedures for electing the National Assembly were illegal, and ordered the body to be dissolved. The military said it would continue to rule using an interim constitution.

“I don’t think anybody is naïve enough to believe that the revolution’s objective has been realized especially at this point,” said Morayef. “Obviously over the last few weeks, we have seen a number of measures by the military that have expanded their powers, their role in drafting the constitution and their power longer term.”

“We are likely to see a tug of war,” she continued, “between the military and the Brotherhood over the next week or two since Morsi has now been confirmed as the president with the legitimacy of democratic elections behind him. He will be stronger in negotiations to discuss what power the new president should have.”

The president has the power to appoint the Cabinet. But the military has also made known its interest in controlling the state budget, which, said Morayef, means “it will be able to put a stop to any institutional reform plans that the Muslim Brotherhood has.”

She also said the new president will need to reconcile with his opponents. According to Morayef, Morsi will need to take steps to address concerns of supporters who voted for former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq.

“The vote for Shafiq did not come out of nowhere… it was also a vote that reflected legitimate concerns about what positions the Muslim Brotherhood will take on a number of issues… and I think what we need to see from Mohammed Morsi in the next few days are confidence building measures and steps taken to address the discrimination that Christians in Egypt have experienced… [among others],” said Morayef.

Morsi’s victory makes him Egypt’s first civilian president to govern the country, effectively ending decades of military rule.

Morayef said Egyptians anxiously waited for the electoral commission to announce the winner of the presidential run-off vote between Islamist Mohammed Morsi and the establishment–backed former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq.

“Those crowds were obviously cheering on because either they were supported of Morsi or because they were relieved because Ahmed Shafiq did not win,” said Morayef.

“This was also quite a divisive election, and many Shafiq supporters will be disappointed," he said. "But I think the overall message that we are hearing from the activist community and from Brotherhood supporters today is one of relief that Shafiq did not win the election.”

She said Morsi’s victory in the presidential run-off is seen as a pushback against the military regime.