Spot analysis by Samer Libdeh
The Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Morsi claimed victory earlier today in Egypt's first presidential election following the toppling of Hosni Mubarak's regime last year.
The Islamist group was about to portray itself as a the victim of a military coup following the decision by the Supreme Court to dissolve the Islamist dominated Parliament on the grounds that the electoral law that led to the election of a number of Islamist MPs was unconstitutional. Additionally, Youssef al-Qaradawi, a radical Qatar-based cleric has called on Egyptians to vote for Morsi, suggesting that voting for Shafiq is a ''perjury''. Even al Qaeda leader, Aymann al-Zawahiri, issued a statement urging Egyptians to vote for Morsi.
It also appears that Morsi polled well amongst women. Indeed, female activists were an important component of the Brotherhood's strategy to get the vote out inside a conservative family-oriented society. Female activists were recruited to engage in door-to-door campaigning designed to target women. A similar approach that used by Hamas' in Gaza in 2005. Shafiq, on the other hand, managed to win major touristic governorates in Luxor and the Red Sea, suggesting the sector's fear from the Islamic agenda that could block significant flow of income for the country.
The significance of the election lies in the fact that Egyptians have voted for a president without a constitution or a parliament, following the Supreme Court decision last Thursday to disband the legislature elected last January. Under the new dispensation, the president will hold the executive authority without adequate or appropriate checks and balances in place.
That said, the power of the Muslim Brotherhood may be somewhat checked by undisguised power grab by the "transitional government", headed by military generals the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). SCAF has unilaterally awarded itself new powers, including veto power over the text of a new permanent constitution and the power to decide on all matters relating to its operations. The statement issued by SCAF suggests that it will work to safeguard Egypt's strategic relations with Israel and the US, and ensure that the peace treaty will remain in effect even if the Muslim Brotherhood controls both the legislative and the executive branches of government. In addition, SCAF has announced that no new parliamentary elections will take place until a permanent constitution has been approved. This decision has been greeted with anger and dismay on the Egyptian street with many claiming that this amounts to a military coup.
Given this situation, domestic exhaustion and further tensions should be expected both within Egyptian civil society but also at a political institutional level. Indeed, following the SCAF statement questions remain over whether the armed forces will fall under the ultimate authority of the executive branch and/or whether they will actually obey presidential orders. Civil rights activists claim that SCAFs declaration rendered the scheduled handover of power to a democratically elected executive meaningless.
From a regional context, the events of the last week in Egypt could be read as a proxy war between two Gulf Arab powers: Qatar and Saudi Arabia. The former backs the Muslim Brotherhood through funding, clerical consultations and massive media coordination, while latter has backed SCAF and its favoured candidate Shafiq.