In lieu of results
Mohamed Mursi may become Mubarak's successor during post-revolution Egypt's most volatile moment to date. Then again, he might not. Either way the Brotherhood won't give up without a fight, writes Amira Howeidy
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Supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood's presidential candidate Mursi wave Egypt's national flag and posters of him in Tahrir Square on Tuesday
After an exhausting two-month presidential election marathon Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Mursi took to the podium at his Freedom and Justice Party's downtown headquarters in the early hours of Monday, 18 June. His campaign had just finished counting the 16-17 June presidential run-off election returns and their figures placed Mursi ahead of his rival, Hosni Mubarak protégé Ahmed Shafik. Mursi spoke for 10 minutes from the podium. To all intents and purposes it was his acceptance speech.
"I thank those who said no and those who said yes," he said. "I come with a message of peace."
"Those who said yes and those who said no are all my people and they have a special place in my heart. With gratitude, I thank you."
He addressed the youth-led revolution, the families of the martyrs and those whose injuries during the 18-day uprising have left them disabled. He vowed to bring them their "rights", and called on "all Egyptians", women, Copts and expatriates, to consider him a "brother, father, the citizen who is at their service".
He vowed not to settle scores, to look forward not back, and finished his speech with a statement that will run the round of quotes. "We all aspire to a civil, democratic, constitutional and modern state".
That is where Mursi's presidential moment ended. Until Al-Ahram Weekly went to press on Wednesday the Presidential Elections Commission (PEC), which oversees the vote, had given no indication who was leading, let alone who had won. It is expected to announce the results today.
Claims that Mursi had secured 51.8 per cent of the vote against Shafik's 48.1 per cent were dismissed by Shafik's campaign on Tuesday. The reaction might have been dismissed as a case of bad-losing had it not been accompanied by a flurry of rumours, widely disseminated in the state-owned media, supporting Shafik camp's claim that not only were the Brotherhood's figures inaccurate, Shafik was in the lead. Many commentators suspect the intelligence and security apparatus to be the source of the rumours.
As 30 June -- the date on which the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) said it would hand over "power" -- draws closer, it is increasingly apparent that power is a relative concept.
A series of court rulings and SCAF decrees, apparently prompted by indicators in the week before the poll that Mursi was leading his rival, effectively leave the next president with no executive powers. On 13 June the justice minister issued a decree giving the military police powers to arrest civilians. The following day the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) declared elections in a third of People's Assembly seats unconstitutional on the grounds that the mixed voting system compromised the right of independent candidates. On 16 June SCAF notified the People's Assembly -- it had already been surrounded by military police to prevent MPs from entering -- that parliament was dissolved. And an hour before polling stations closed on 17 June SCAF issued a constitutional addendum stripping the president of a host of executive powers and awarding them to itself. The addendum also gives SCAF the right to dissolve the existing 100-member constituent assembly mandated to draft a new constitution and replace it with one of its own choosing.
The political earthquake -- termed a "soft coup" in the international media -- has overshadowed the success of the Brotherhood's election machine. Yet despite a flood of anti-Brotherhood propaganda in both state-run and private media outlets the Brotherhood managed to mobilise 13,238,298 voters to support Mursi, more than double the 5.7 million he secured in the first round. Shafik, who many expected to score a decisive victory, saw his vote rise from 4.9 million in the first round to 12,351,184. Mursi won in 17 governorates, Shafik in nine.
The efficacy of the Brotherhood's electoral machine became clear as the votes were being counted and the media found itself dependent on Mursi's campaign for up to the minute results. By Tuesday Mursi's campaign had compiled and printed a booklet containing copies of the results from 13,000 polling stations, replete with official stamps and signatures. The booklet was clearly intended to refute claims by Shafik's camp that their counting was inaccurate.
The Brotherhood seemed to handle last week's series of blows with confidence. "It demonstrated its ability to adapt," observed political Islam expert Khalil El-Anani.
The group's reaction came in stages. When the constitutional court dissolved parliament the decision was, despite pressure on Mursi to quit the presidential race, to keep going and show no reaction. When SCAF issued the addendum, the reaction was cautious: Mursi kept quiet while other FJP leaders attacked it. The party waited for a day before issuing a statement on 18 June slamming the military's "hegemony" and "coup against democracy". SCAF has "no authority" to dissolve parliament or issue a constitutional addendum, it said. "The people's assembly still stands, and still enjoys legislative authority and oversight," it added, arguing that the SCC ruling could be implemented without dissolving the entire People's Assembly. SCAF's decision to dissolve the assembly was denounced as "null and void" and the party would join street protests against the "constitutional coup".
By Tuesday evening Tahrir Square was packed with mainly Brotherhood and Salafi demonstrators chanting "free revolutionaries we shall continue the struggle", "down with SCAF" and "leave! We wont leave, they leave!", a revival of a slogan popular throughout the 18-day uprising that toppled Mubarak, only this time directed against the military council.
A meeting by the FJP-dominated People's Assembly Legislative Committee on Tuesday dismissed the SCC's ruling as irrelevant. To complicate matters further, a Cairo court was expected to look into a case to dissolve the Brotherhood and confiscate its funds Tuesday morning but postponed hearings to September. Tension mounted again in the evening as Tahrir filled up and hosts and guests on TV stations repeated "unconfirmed" rumours that Brotherhood strongman Khairat El-Shater and FJP leader Mahmoud El-Beltagui had been detained.
El-Shater, the Brotherhood's first choice as its presidential nominee, had kept quiet since Mursi became the FJP's candidate in the elections. But he made a strong come back Tuesday evening, giving three consecutive TV interviews. El-Shater refuted the decision to dissolve the People's Assembly, saying parliament would meet, without specifying when or how and politely criticised SCAF, demanding their recent decisions be put to a public referendum first. The Brotherhood, in other words, would not accept the coup.
It's unclear how far the Brothers are willing to escalate the conflict. They have a record of avoiding confrontation. But the gist of the series of statements made by their leaders over the last four days suggests that they will not give up without a fight. Unconfirmed reports suggest that FJP leaders are already negotiating with SCAF and intelligence officers, though the party issued more than one denial on Tuesday.
Either way, as the Brotherhood waits for PEC to announce the official results of the elections it is unlikely to deliberately provoke the military into further favouring Shafik.
Egypt, it seems, is back to the early days of revolution versus counter-revolution. Only this time the Muslim Brotherhood is at the heart of the equation.