Mohammed Mursi becoming president of Egypt is a victory for all of Egypt, not because the best candidate was chosen, for it is still too early to judge, but rather because Egypt, its people, army, parties, interior, intelligence service and official and civil institutions have demonstrated a spirit of responsibility. This is despite the erroneous behavior that coincided with the final round of the presidential elections, especially from the army, and proves that the country has avoided descending into civil strife and unrest.
Mohammed Mursi is the one who scored the winning goal, but he was backed by an entire team, namely the elements of the Egyptian state that I referred to above. The terrible Algerian scenario – where the army seized the entitlements and results of a democratic process via a coup, plunging Algeria into a dark tunnel it did not know how to get out of – was strikingly visible, but thanks to God, the Egyptian army learned the lessons of Algeria; it was well aware that one era is not the same as another. The Egyptian military has also benefited from the failed experience of the Turkish army; when after the victory of the Justice and Development party [AKP] in the Turkish elections it tried to salvage what was left of the political gains it had already plundered, only for the AKP to clip its wings by leaning on its popular momentum and the new international reality.
At the same time, President Mohammed Mursi displayed the behavior of a statesman when he praised the Egyptian army and its adherence to the promises it made to hand over power on time, safeguard the parliamentary elections, and finally oversee the more important and dangerous presidential elections. It is true that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces [SCAF] committed a big mistake when it dissolved the People’s Assembly and voided the election of one third of the members of parliament, but now is not the time to stir up animosity, re-open old wounds and kill the joy of the Egyptian people after they have elected the first civilian president in the country’s history. Likewise, now is not the time to open a dangerous front with the army, which continues to hold many key positions within the state. Rather, President Mursi must follow two important paths, the first being the most dangerous and most important, namely solving the citizens’ problems including security, sanitation, traffic, bread and fuel, problems which Mursi promised to solve without the need for further state funding. The second path is long overdue, and it involves resorting to regulatory and legal means to put the army in its natural framework, and wrestle back the powers the military has extracted by force and accumulated since the 1952 revolution.
It is noteworthy that in Mursi’s recent speeches, he exceeded people’s expectations of him, especially the view that was held of him when the Muslim Brotherhood first put him forward for the presidential elections, particularly as he was their reserve candidate. He showed a good measure of self-confidence and a reasonable ability to improvise in his role in such an important position, addressing millions. He was also cleverly able to tap into the emotion of the Egyptian people by refusing to adhere to the stereotypical images of him. For example, he called on people not to purchase congratulatory adverts and messages in the press, calling for this money to be spent on the general public instead. He also decided not to plaster his picture all over the official circles, whilst his wife refused to call herself Egypt’s First Lady. However, these measures are akin to short-term painkillers, and relying on them in the end will not solve anything. What is required is hard work to solve the thorny issues such as security, poverty, unemployment, and how to activate the wheel of development.
President Mursi is facing a number of myths and assumptions put forward by his opponents who fear for the Egyptian state if the Islamists come to power. Yet all these accusations only motivate the president to work harder, so that at the end of his presidential term, people will say: Mursi was victorious [in changing perceptions]!
The writer is a journalist and former member of the official Saudi National Organization for Human Rights. The article was published in the London-based Asharq al-Awsat on July 2, 2012