This man Mohammed MursiBy DALLIA MONIEM in Cairo | Wednesday, June 27 2012 at 19:13
It is official – Egypt has it's first democratically elected civilian president.
After 80 years since its birth, 30 of which were spent as an outlawed group under the regime of former President Hosni Mubarak, the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) has entered the highest office in the country.
This was after their candidate Mohammed Mursi beat his rival in a runoff, whose results were announced last Monday.
But who is Mohamed Mursi?
Ridiculed by media and pundits alike as being 'the bridesmaid' 'second choice' and 'MB substitute' following the disqualification of the first choice candidate Khairat El-Shater, Mursi has proven to be more than just a simple backup. His story, in a way, is the classic simple guy done good or as several headlines aptly put it: From the prison to the palace.
A PhD holder in rocket science from the University of Southern California, where he was also an assistant professor for three years, Mursi returned to Egypt in 1985 and taught at the University of Zagazig, where he headed the engineering department until 2010.
He grew attracted to the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood during the 1970s, becoming an official member in 1979 and steadily rose through the ranks.
A member of the MB for more than 30 years, he joined the religious department first in 1979, moved on to the newly-formed political one in 1992 and reached the Guidance Bureau, the group's highest decision-making body in 1995.
Unlike many of his fellow high-ranking members in the group, Mursi's background is not peppered with prison and arrests, though he did serve seven months in jail following his arrest in May 2006, “along with dozens of other Brotherhood members, for supporting a group of reformist judges who had staged demonstrations against the fraud that had accompanied the 2005 elections”.
The top office
It was during his tenure as a parliamentarian that his reputation within the Brotherhood grew while under the wings of Shater, considered by many to be the brains and financial guru behind the group. Mursi is, in other words, Shater's protege, and if the master was not able to run for the top office, well then Mursi definitely was.
According to one report: “His ascent has been related to his ties with Shater. For many insiders, Mursi’s complacent nature and unquestionable commitment to the group’s internal discipline and order gained him Shater’s support."
"Shater, who always preferred to remain backstage, empowered Mursi and pushed him to the organisation’s forefront. With Shater’s blessing, Mursi eventually seized the group’s most crucial portfolios, including the political and media divisions. In April 2011, the Shura Council, the group’s top decision-making body, chose Mursi as the president of the Freedom and Justice Party, their brand new political party.”
Within the MB, Mursi is seen as one of its most conservative members and indeed has indicated as such in past interviews and statements attributed to him.
While a slogan associated with his campaign, 'Islam is the Solution' sparked consternation amongst Egypt's Christian and secular community, he was at pains during various interviews to insist that: “There is no such thing called an Islamic democracy. There is democracy only. The people are the source of authority."
In regards to the role and rights of women “he vowed that 'women's rights are equal to men'”.
However, his conservative nature has been a source of friction between the old guards of the Muslim Brotherhood and the younger, more progressive voices in the group.
An Egyptian Independent paper reported: “When the group issued its political platform in 2007, some young brothers had decried on the blogosphere three controversial clauses that denied women and Copts the right to run for president, and stipulated that laws should be vetted by a board of religious scholars.”
The three clauses were later dropped after pressure from the youth.
The youth's victory emboldened many young brothers and prompted them to challenge the leaders’ orders on several occasions during the 18-day-uprising that culminated in Mubarak’s ouster.
A standoff ensued between the two camps with the youth requesting that Mursi no longer be the intermediary between them and the leadership. A smear campaign ensued, resulting in several young members being expelled from the group on the grounds that they violated the leader's directives.
Mursi's ascent to become MB's presidential candidate may have been fortuitous, but nonetheless, it has been one seamless transition for the group in shifting their endorsement and backing from Shater.
The Muslim Brotherhood is notoriously secretive about its financial muscle and backers, but one fact is that when it comes to promoting, campaigning and pushing their candidate(s), there is no budget limit.
Mursi was portrayed as being a man of the people, one who stood up for ethics and morals, fought against corruption during the reign of Mubarak and one who believes in democracy and is committed to it.
His background in politics and his times in prison where highlighted all in the name of portraying him as the best candidate for the job. All very smart moves from a group that until some 18 months ago was banned in Egypt to where they are now.
Coupled with the groups outreach at the grassroots level, MB has smartly grasped the opportunity handed to it even members have constantly insisted their aim was "participation, not domination".Mursi himself stated in a 2010 interview with Foreign Policy magazine that: "The word 'opposition' has the connotation of seeking power. But, at this moment, we are not seeking power because [that] requires preparation, and society is not prepared."
Post revolution and the group that insisted it would not seek to anoint one of their own as president, now has one of its own in that very office.
Whether the newly elected president of Egypt will have much power or simply remain as nothing more then a mere figurehead, remains to be seen.
The ruling Supreme Council of Armed Forces (Scaf) moved to ensure that the army would remain untouchable and unaccountable in regards to its expenditure, its powers and its role in Egyptian politics.
Furthermore, the issue of the constitution and those that will make up the assembly charged with drafting it has yet to be addressed. Rumours doing the rounds in Egypt are that both Scaf and the MB reached compromises regarding the political future of the country and their own.
A recurring theme is that the military will continue to have a role and not take a step back as they'd previously promised, and that the MB would work within the parameters set out by Scaf in the recent Constitutional Declaration.
In return, MB has asked that parliament not be dissolved, that only the third whose seats violated the proportional representation system are to face re-election.
Furthermore, they would like to see various clauses in the constitutional declaration be removed as they severely curtail and undermine the president's powers such as his right to appoint a minister of defence.
As of yet, both sides are still negotiating with no word on what the possible final agreement.
It is very early for Mursi to be judged and be it the liberals, the Christians, the skeptics or the experts, all are willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.
In fact, Mursi Meter website has already been set up to keep track of all the campaign promises he made, including offering incentives and promotions to the police that will restore security, penalties for those who smuggle fuel, and changes to improve traffic order.
President Mursi's policy advisor has gone to lengths to allay fears, saying in an interview after the announcement of his election victory that the president elect will be a leader of all Egyptians and that he would appoint Coptic Christian and woman vice-presidents.
He said: “President-elect Mursi is not only backed by people with an Islamic tendency or ideology; he is now backed by all the people of the revolution, and this is definitely a dramatic positive card that he can play while negotiating with the Scaf.
"One of the first decisions will be appointing different vice-presidents. One of them will be a woman, for the first time in Egyptian history - not just modern history, but all Egyptian history, for a woman to take that position.
"Also, he has decided to appoint a Christian vice-president, and they will not just be a vice-president who will represent a certain gender or sect, but a vice-president who is powerful and empowered and will deal with critical files within the presidential Cabinet."
A new chapter in Egypt's history has now been written and until the next presidential elections in four years, it will be in the hands of Mohamed Mursi and his Cabinet which path they will lead Egypt.
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