Mohammad Morsi is the candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood and chairman of its political wing, the Freedom And Justice Party (FJP), the Islamist superpower of Egypt’s politics in the period after the fall of former President Hosni Mubarak.
A candidate of Egypt’s strongest political party would normally be an undisputed favorite to win the presidential elections at the time when secular groups still struggle to find direction, but Morsi jumped into the campaign at the last moment, after disqualification of Khairat Al Shater, the Brotherhood’s first choice. This left him with little time to build up a profile that would resonate beyond the party circles.*See here for profiles of other top candidates.
Policy: Moderate Islam
- Military: Morsi has pledged that no “entity will be above the constitution”, in a reference to military’s special status nurtured under Mubarak. This includes wresting the control of the military's budget and placing it under parliamentary control.
Read more on why Egyptian generals still run the show.
- Economy: A mix of support for open market economy and small-to-medium enterprises with a focus on social justice.
- Foreign policy: Morsi will abide by the 1979 peace treaty with Israel but will refuse to meet Israeli officials. He has promised to prioritize the Palestinian issue, which would imply a less accommodative stance toward the US.
- Religion: Morsi speaks of “Islam with a moderate reference” but his campaign has pandered heavily toward the ultra-conservative voters who want a strict implementation of Sharia religious law.
Background: Party worker
60-year old Morsi is a seasoned member of Muslim Brotherhood’s mainstream leadership, with a typical combination of modest rural background, conservative social views and a successful professional career (he completed his PhD in engineering in the US).
His experience in electoral politics includes two terms in Egyptian parliament but unlike the more flamboyant Dr. Abdel Moneim Abou al-Fotouh, his main rival for the Islamist vote in the elections, Morsi remains relatively unknown to the larger Egyptian public.
Electoral Strength: Grassroots Organization
Morsi has been ridiculed for being a “spare-tire” candidate due to the manner in which he became the Brotherhood’s candidate, but behind him is the disciplined machinery of a party that has patiently endured decades of Egypt’s secular dictatorship. The Brotherhood and the FJP control an unrivalled grassroots network that won the party 40% of the vote in 2011/12 legislative elections, giving Morsi a huge organizational advantage over other candidates.
And it’s not all about religion. At the legislative polls, Muslim Brotherhood was the preferred choice of many regular Egyptians who care primarily about jobs, economy and transparency, and see in the organization a clean pair of hands that inspires more credibility than the divided secular parties.
Weakness: Lack of charisma
Morsi’s campaign has been blend and uninspiring and he stands no chance of reaching out to secular voters, mistrustful of Brotherhood’s real intentions. Morsi has pledged that if elected he would act as an independent president for all Egyptians, but few voters will see him as anything more than an extension of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Morsi has also been hurt by friction between the Brotherhood and ultra-conservative Islamists, known as Salafis, who came second in the legislative polls. Rivalry between the Brotherhood and the Salafi Al Nour Party means Morsi can’t take all Islamist voters for granted.
Support: Brotherhood’s Base
Morsi’s formula for winning the elections is simple: win the party loyalist vote and try to persuade other Egyptians receptive to the Islamist message.
Morsi will have a strong showing among religiously conservative members of professional groups, urban and rural poor, and has won the endorsement of some of the smaller Salafi parties – but that might not be enough to win in a potential second round.* Morsi narrowly won the elections and was sworn into office on June 30 2012. See his presidential profile. Go to Current Situation in the Middle East / Egypt