CAIRO – The Muslim Brotherhood declared early Monday that its candidate, Mohammed Morsi, won Egypt’s presidential election, which would be the first victory of an Islamist as head of state in the stunning wave of protests demanding democracy that swept the Middle East the past year.
But the military handed itself the lion’s share power over the new president, sharpening the possibility of confrontation. With parliament dissolved and martial law effectively in force, the generals issued an interim constitution granting themselves sweeping authorities that ensure their hold on the state and subordinate the president.
They will be Egypt’s lawmakers, they will control the budget and they will determine who writes the permanent constitution that will define the country’s future. But as they claimed a narrow victory over Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister Ahmed Shafiq in a deeply polarizing election, the Brotherhood challenged the military’s power grab.
The group said Sunday it did not recognize the dissolution of parliament, where it was the largest party. It also rejected the military’s right to issue an interim constitution and oversee the drafting of a new one.
That pointed to a potential struggle over spheres of authority between Egypt’s two strongest forces. The Brotherhood has campaigned on a platform of bringing Egypt closer to a form of Islamic rule, but the military’s grip puts it in a position to block that.
Instead any conflict would likely center on more basic questions of control — if the Brotherhood pushes a fight. It has reached accommodations with the military in the past.
Official final results are not due until Thursday, and Shafiq’s campaign challenged the Brotherhood claim, which was based on the group’s compilation of election officials’ returns from nearly all polling centers nationwide.
But at their campaign headquarters, the Brotherhood officials and supporters were ebullient over the turn of fate. The fundamentalist group that was banned for most of its 80-year history and repeatedly subjected to crackdowns under Mubarak’s rule now held the chair from which their nemesis was ousted by last year’s 18 days of mass protests.
The uprising was launched by secular, leftist young activists, joined only later by the Brotherhood’s leadership as millions took to the street, seeking an end to an authoritarian regime considered hopelessly corrupt.
In a victory speech at the headquarters, Morsi clearly sought to assuage the fears of a large sector of Egyptians that the Brotherhood will try to impose stricter provisions of Islamic law. He said he seeks “stability, love and brotherhood for the Egyptian civil, national, democratic, constitutional and modern state” and made no mention of Islamic law.
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