Mohamed Mursi faces a daunting path as Egypt's first democratically elected president, reports Dina Ezzat
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Excited crowds in Tahrir Square grab at a giant poster of the newly elected president, Mohamed Mursi. The revolutionary camp supported the Muslim Brotherhood candidate largely to prevent Ahmed Shafik -- Mubarak's last prime minister -- from coming to power. As is metaphorically evident in the picture, however, Mursi will be pulled at on every side with at least three distinct camps making demands on his attention and what power he will be granted to exercise: the revolutionary camp, the stability camp, and the Islamist camp
Mohamed Mursi's road to the presidential palace began with decades of political activism, encompassed his time as an MP, involved his reluctant nomination -- as back-up to another candidate -- and hesitant campaigning before ending in political deals that helped translate his narrow victory at the ballot box over Ahmed Shafik into an announcement that he would, indeed, succeed Hosni Mubarak, albeit in complicated partnership with the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF).
But for how long?
A question mark lingers over the 61-year-old professor of engineering's term in office. Will new elections be called once a new constitution is in place, which is supposed to be in the next 12 months? Or will Mursi get a full four-year term in which to endeavour to deliver at least some of the demands made by the 25 January Revolution?
In his victory speech on Sunday Mursi promised that he would be the president of all Egyptians, vowing to meet the demands of the revolution through a "a democratic, modern and developing state".
That, of course, is far easier said than done, and it was noteworthy that he avoided any reference to the civil state, a term he used repeatedly in the days of his wheeler-dealing that preceded the announcement of the results.
Mursi will have been presented with a host of negative economic indicators on arriving at the presidential office at Heliopolis and meeting with outgoing prime minister Kamal El-Ganzouri.
The stock market may have rallied since the news of Mursi's victory but foreign debt stands at $34 billion, the budget deficit is close to 10 per cent, unemployment levels are piling on the stress and public services have all but collapsed after decades of mismanagement. Add to that the problems of implementing an effective foreign policy in an increasingly turbulent region, and the very real threats to domestic political cohesion, and Mursi faces turbulent times ahead.
Supporters of the new president believe he will be able to draw a line between his duties as president and his older allegiance to the Muslim Brotherhood. The consensus he is currently attempting to build across the political spectrum, they argue, will trump earlier positions that were a result of his leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood's political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP).
"When we spoke with him on the eve of his election he was very candid. He said he could not surmount the daunting challenges ahead without the support of a national coalition. He was quite clear that the Muslim Brotherhood cannot rule Egypt alone," said a politician who attended some of the meetings Mursi held over forming a presidential advisory council and his first government.
Improving the quality of daily life, or at least lessening its hardships, is the crucial task which Mursi must prioritise, says leftist politician Hussein Abdel-Razeq, "especially when it comes to security and employment". Otherwise he will be deemed a failure.
Mursi is reported to be going the extra mile to accommodate SCAF's demands in an attempt to avoid an early confrontation that might deflect from attempts to improve the day to day life of the public. And he is, claim those who have spoken with the president-elect, well aware that it would be foolhardy at this point to attempt the wholesale replacement of professional cadres within the exciting bureaucratic system with his own supporters from the FJP.
"If Mursi attempted to impose FJP cadres on state bodies he will fail," argues Abdel-Razeq.
Improving security levels and reducing unemployment might be the most pressing of the list of tasks ahead of Mursi, but difficult as they are, they may not be the toughest of the challenges he faces.
That, says Abdel-Razeq, is likely to be maintaining the civil nature of the Egyptian state in the face of pressure to turn Egypt into a "theocracy of sorts". The test of Mursi's intentions, argues Abdel-Razeq, rests on how he promotes consensus, rather than a belligerent Islamist monopoly, over the drafting of the new constitution.
"He must be conscious, I think, that he needs to prove that he is capable of drawing a line under his Muslim Brotherhood roots as he embraces the presidential mandate," says lawyer-activist Ahmed Ragheb. "Mursi became president with a very narrow popular mandate. His legitimacy in the post will depend on his ability to secure a broad base of public support. He cannot simply rely on Islamist backing."
Coptic intellectual Youssef Sidhom believes Mursi's commitment to promises he has already made about serving all Egyptians will be key to his ability to succeed as president. "Even though Mursi was not, and could not have been, the Coptic choice for president we have to have faith and hold him accountable for the positive promises he made during his first speech."
Mursi had vowed that there will be a fairer representation of Copts in political office, an issue that received lip service and little else under Mubarak's regime. Among his promises is that one of the three vice presidents he says he will appoint will be a Copt.
Before attending to anything Mursi must first be sworn into office. What would normally be a routine procedure has become, in the messy end to the first phase of transition, a politically loaded issue. Under SCAF's appendix to the Constitutional Declaration the new president is required to take his oath of office before the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC). But the Muslim Brotherhood is refusing to recognise the legality of the appendix, and Mursi is unlikely to relish swearing in before a body that this month dissolved the Islamist dominated People's Assembly.
Assistants to Mursi have said he fully intends to be sworn in before the People's Assembly. Yet sources who have been following the talks among the Muslim Brotherhood's leadership suggest Mursi could take the oath before the crowds in Tahrir Square and before the SCC, a compromise that would avoid antagonising SCAF.
Mursi is scheduled to receive US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton right after being sworn into office on Saturday. (see pp.2-6)