Egypt: Mursi wins presidential polls, urges unity
Cairo: Mohammed Mursi, who was on Sunday declared the winner of Egypt`s Presidential Election, has called for national unity.
After being declared the winner, Mursi proclaimed himself a leader "for all Egyptians”.
The announcement by election officials touched off a joyous celebration of chanting and dancing in the sweltering heat by tens of thousands of Mursi’s supporters jamming Tahrir Square, the birthplace of the uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak 16 months ago.
It also capped a week of growing political tension in the streets after authorities delayed announcing the results of the June 16-17 runoff election between Morsi and Mubarak`s former prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq.
Tanks and other signs of heavy security had been deployed around the country, especially outside state institutions, in anticipation of possible violence reminiscent of the first days of last year`s revolution.
Speaking on Egyptian television on Sunday evening, Mursi declared he had a "message of peace. We will respect all international agreements”. He did not mention Israel but the remark seemed to be a reassuring nod to respecting the peace treaty.
The election commission said Mursi won 51.7 percent in the runoff — a margin of only 800,000 votes — over Shafiq, a former Air Force colonel who was perceived to be the favourite of the military council that took over from Mubarak.
"I tell everybody in this memorable day, that because of your choice, your will, and after God`s favour, I am a president for all Egyptians," the 60-year-old engineer, professor and former lawmaker said in his speech, delivered stiffly as he read from notes.
Monday`s editions of Freedom and Justice, the Muslim Brotherhood`s newspaper that bears the same name as the group`s political party, bannered the headline: "The street explodes with joy, the people write history: Morsi President of Egypt."
It was a stunning victory for the Muslim Brotherhood, a group that was outlawed under Mubarak. But the liberal and secular youth groups that drove the uprising were left wondering whether Egypt has taken a step toward becoming a repressive Islamist state, or a new power sharing agreement between Mursi and the military — the traditional power brokers.
In his speech, Mursi sought to reach out to the activists by paying tribute to the nearly 900 protesters killed in the uprising. "I wouldn`t have been here between your hands as the first elected president without ... the blood, the tears, and sacrifices of the martyrs," he said.
President Barack Obama telephoned the US-educated Mursi to congratulate him on his victory and offer continued support for Egypt`s transition to democracy. The White House said Mursi expressed appreciation for Obama`s call and "welcomed US support for Egypt`s transition”.
The reaction from Israel was subdued, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying he respected the results of Egypt`s democratic process and hoped the peace agreement between the two countries would remain intact. Ecstatic residents in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip filled the streets, fired guns in the air and handed out candy.
A week ago, when the polls were closing in the runoff election, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) issued constitutional amendments that stripped the president`s office of most of its major powers. The ruling generals made themselves the final arbiters over the most pressing issues still complicating the transition— such as writing the Constitution, legislating, passing the state budget— and granted military police broad powers to detain civilians.
A court earlier dissolved the freely-elected Parliament, which was dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, leaving the military also in charge of legislating.
According to the constitutional declaration, the new president won`t appoint the defence minister and will lose the title of "Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces”.
Tens of thousands of Mursi`s supporters vowed to stay in the square, pressing for the reversal of those actions by the generals. Mohammed el-Beltagy, a leading member of the Brotherhood and former lawmaker, said the protesters would not leave until the military fulfils its promises to hand over power to a civilian president by July 01.
Ahmed Abdel-Attie, a Mursi campaign manager, told state TV that Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, the head of the military council, called Mursi to congratulate him and that the two will meet on Monday.
The military`s moves had drawn international condemnation from human rights groups and the US, raising fears that the generals wanted to undercut Egypt`s democratic experience and entrench military rule.
The ultra-conservative Salafi party Al-Nour has mediated between the Brotherhood and the military to ensure a "smooth gradual transition”, said Youssri Hamad, a spokesman for the group. Hamad didn`t discuss details of the mediation but he said this was in part behind the delay in announcing the election results.
Pro-democracy leader Mohammed ElBaradei urged unity after the results were announced.
"It is time we work all as Egyptians as part of a national consensus to build Egypt that is based on freedom and social justice," he wrote on his Twitter account.
(With Agency inputs)
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