Egypt’s presidential elections were held over May and June 2012, roughly 18 months after mass protest brought down the long-serving president Hosni Mubarak. Mohammed Morsi, the candidate of Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, won 52% in the second round of the voting to beat Ahmed Shafiq, former Mubarak’s minister thought to be backed by the military.
Morsi became Egypt’s first civilian president since a military coup overthrew Egyptian monarchy in 1952, and the very first elected Islamist head of state in the Arab world.
However, the landmark election was overshadowed by the dissolution of the Islamist-dominated parliament, ordered by the constitutional court, which effectively delayed full transition of power from the interim military rulers to elected civilian authorities.
- Freedom and Justice Party: Muslim Brotherhood in Post-Mubarak Era.
- Full blog coverage of the election
The election commission barred ten candidates from standing in the polls, often citing legal arguments that were at best contentious, and at worst farcical. Barred candidates included Khairat Al Shater, the first choice of the Muslim Brotherhood, ultraconservative Salafist Hazem Abu Ismail and long-standing opposition leader Ayman Nour. These machinations aroused suspicion the army would try to influence the election outcome (see BBC report).
But there was still plenty to choose from, with 13 candidates competing in the first voting round on 23-24 May. Other than Morsi and Shafiq, the top contenders included veteran diplomat Amr Moussa, independent Islamist Dr. Abdel Moneim Abou al-Fotouh, and secular leftist Hamdeen Sabbahi.
Full Election Results
24 million Egyptians who took part in the first round delivered a shock result: none of the candidates closely associated with the January 2011 anti-Mubarak uprising made it into the second round. Mursi, who came in as a replacement for the barred Muslim Brotherhood candidate, came on top, followed closely by Ahmed Shafiq who won the votes of those Egyptians longing for order and stability after months of unrest.
The stage was set for a showdown between Shafiq, a member of the old regime, and Morsi, a representative of Mubarak’s oldest enemy.
Controversy: Poll Overshadowed By Military’s Power Grab
Tense atmosphere after the first round culminated in the dissolution of parliament just days before the run-off, robbing Morsi’s Freedom and Justice Party and shattering all hopes that military would transfer its interim power.
Morsi became president, but all legislative power was transferred to the military, along with the right of veto over the process of drafting a new constitution (see my blog post on the news).
- Egyptian Military’s Power: Profile of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces
- Al Ahram: Text of the military's constitutional declaration from 17 June 2012
Analysis: What Did We Learn About the New Egypt
Voting patterns suggest a moody electorate that is impatient for change, with most voters yet to adopt firm loyalties on the party/ideological line. Freedom and Justice Party swept the late 2011 parliamentary elections, but lost considerable ground merely six months later.
Who expected a secular leftist candidate to almost make it into the run-off? Give us jobs, or we kick you out, seems to be the message of Egyptian voters.
What Next: Egypt Still Up For Grabs
President Morsi faces an uphill battle in renegotiating the rules of the game with the military rulers. There’s no constitution, and hence no legal framework defining the president’s powers. Morsi will have the right to appoint a new cabinet, a hitherto preserve of the military, but he’s at the mercy of the judiciary which seems to be overly friendly with the generals (see BBC report).
Will Morsi try to rebuild bridges with secular revolutionaries and liberal political parties by awarding them positions in the new cabinet? Or will he try to cut a grand deal where the Freedom and Justice Party (Muslim Brotherhood) get the parliament, and the military reserve a veto on executive decisions?Current Situation in the Middle East / Egypt