Egypt’s Mohammed Mursi, the first Islamist to be elected to the presidency, said on Sunday he will be a leader “for all Egyptians” and called for national unity after a polarizing race.
“I will be a president for all Egyptians,” Mursi said just hours after he was declared president following a deeply divisive race against Ahmed Shafiq, the last premier to serve under ousted president Hosni Mubarak.
“I call on you, great people of Egypt ... to strengthen our national unity,” he said, adding that national unity “is the only way out of these difficult times.”
Mursi won 51.73 percent of the vote, with 13,230,131 ballots.
The election has polarized the nation, dividing those who feared a return to the old regime under Shafiq from others who wanted to keep religion out of politics and who fear the Brotherhood would stifle personal freedoms.
Mursi, who resigned from the Muslim Brotherhood to take the top job, thanked the “martyrs” of the uprising for the victory and stressed “the revolution continues.”
The 60-year-old engineer also vowed to honor international treaties.
“We will preserve all international treaties and charters ... we come in peace,” Mursi said.
Egypt is one of only two Arab countries -- the other is Jordan -- to have made peace with the Jewish state. The Egypt-Israel peace treaty was signed in 1979.
Israel urges cooperation
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his country respects the democratic election of Mursi as Egypt’s president and wants to cooperate with his future government in Cairo.
“Israel values the democratic process in Egypt and respects the results of the presidential election,” his office said in a statement. “Israel hopes to continue cooperation with the Egyptian government on the basis of the peace treaty.”
There was celebratory gunfire in the Gaza Strip, which borders Egypt and is ruled by the Palestinian Islamic movement Hamas, which has its roots in the Brotherhood and close ties with it.
Senior Hamas official Mahmud Zahar told AFP the victory was “a historic moment and a new era in the history of Egypt,” as Gazans cheered and fired volleys of celebratory gunfire in the streets of the coastal enclave.
Zahar called Mursi’s victory “a defeat for the program of normalization and security cooperation with the enemy,” referring to Israel.
The United States, which provides vast military aid to Egypt, welcomed the Egyptian result but made it clear it expected Mursi to ensure stability and not to veer to extremes.
“We believe that it is important for President-elect Mursi to take steps at this historic time to advance national unity by reaching out to all parties and constituencies in consultations about the formation of a new government,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said in a statement, calling on the new leader to ensure Egypt remains “a pillar of regional peace”.
“We believe it is essential for the Egyptian government to continue to fulfill Egypt's role as a pillar of regional peace, security and stability,” Carney said, in a veiled reference to hopes for continued cooperation with Israel.
Mursi’s win is likely to usher in an era of cooler ties between Cairo and Washington, after decades of close cooperation between the United States and Mubarak on counter-terrorism, Iran and other regional concerns.
In contrast, the Brotherhood and Washington have long disagreed on Iran, U.S. military presence and counter-terrorism operations in the region, and particularly on Israel.