Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood said on Monday its candidate won the country’s first free presidential election, but a sweeping legal maneuver overnight by Cairo’s military rulers made clear the generals planned to keep control for now. An election committee source told Reuters that Islamist Mohamed Morsy, a U.S.-educated engineer, was comfortably ahead of former air force general Ahmed Shafik with most of the votes tallied. But the count, which would make him the first civilian leader in 60 years, had yet to be officially finalized. In any event, however, the new president will be subordinate for some time at least to the military council which last year pushed fellow officer Mubarak aside to appease street protests.
In the latest twist on Egypt’s tortuous path from revolution to democracy, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) issued a decree as two days of voting ended on Sunday which set strict limits on the powers of head of state. On the eve of the election, it had already dissolved the Islamist-led parliament. Liberal and Islamist opponents denounced a “military coup”. “Military Transfers Power, to Military,” ran the ironic headline in independent newspaper al-Masry al-Youm.
The Brotherhood, however, expressed its joy and defiance on the streets and may challenge moves by the generals that cast doubt on their pledge to hand over to civilian rule by July 1 – a promise supported by Egypt’s U.S. and European allies, despite their deep misgivings about the rise of political Islam in the wake of the Arab Spring uprisings across the Middle East.