Mustafa Kamel el-Sayed, a professor of political science at Cairo University, said Morsi will have to fight to win back presidential powers that the military removed shortly after the runoff election a week ago and form a cabinet, which the generals are certain to want to influence. At the same time, Egyptians will be expecting him to address bread-and-butter issues, he said. Egypt’s economy has been battered by a drop in tourism, and crime has soared as Mubarak’s police state has eroded.
“This is a very positive development,” Sayed said of the election, “but the challenges are tremendous.”
Morsi’s supporters savored the victory with rambunctious celebrations across the country, expressing unbridled pride and relief after a tense week during which many Egyptians feared that the ruling generals were moving toward fraudulently proclaiming that Morsi’s rival, a pro-military candidate, had won.
Karim Ahmed, 23, was wrapped in a Morsi poster as people thronged into Tahrir Square, where they danced, cheered, ululated and clapped to the beat of drums and horns.
“Injustice can never come back,” Ahmed said. “This is the choice of the people!”
A senior U.S. official involved in Egypt policy said Washington grew alarmed last week as rumors swirled in Cairo that the military intended to coronate its favored candidate.
“We were concerned and said so,” said the official, who was not authorized to speak on the record. “In the end, the election authorities did the right thing and the votes prevailed. Now it’s time to focus on building a strong relationship with the new president.”
Morsi, an engineer, received a doctorate from the University of Southern California. He won a seat in parliament in 2000 and was a member of the Brotherhood’s shadowy Guidance Bureau, which sets policy, until he resigned last year to head the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party.
The often cantankerous politician originally was nominated as a backup candidate on the anticipation that Khariat el-Shater, a more revered Brotherhood figure, might be disqualified, which is what happened.
Morsi spent several months as a political prisoner for participating in protests after the 2005 parliamentary election and was detained during the early days of the 2011 revolt.
Morsi comes from the Brotherhood’s conservative wing, and during the campaign he vowed that he would make the Koran the bedrock of the new constitution. He has been critical of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians but has not advocated for a repeal of the peace treaty.
In his speech Sunday, Morsi said he would “respect” Egypt’s international agreements but would also heed the will of the Egyptian people. The accord with Israel is deeply unpopular in Egypt.
Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) said Sunday that his recent conversations with Morsi in Cairo suggest the president-elect understands “the importance of Egypt’s post-revolutionary relationships with America and Israel,” adding that “actions will matter more than words.”
Stephen McInerney, executive director of the Washington-based Project on Middle East Democracy, said Brotherhood officials have not indicated an intention to scrap the treaty, which has made Egypt among the top recipients of U.S. aid since it was signed in 1979.
“You’ll see more inflammatory rhetoric and rhetoric demonstrating a willingness to stand up to Israel, but there does not appear to be a desire to change the fundamental points of the peace treaty,” McInerney said.
Election officials said Morsi captured almost 52 percent of the votes in a runoff against former Mubarak prime minister Ahmed Shafiq.
Even those who weren’t gladdened by Morsi’s victory said they were nonetheless pleased that the country had had a free vote.
“It’s a reality now,” said Mohammed Said, 32, a flag vendor in Tahrir.