x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Next chapter in Egypt must see army fade away

With the election of a new president, some democratic legitimacy has been restored to Egypt, but the country still has many unanswered questions.

Today, Egyptians - and many around the world - will wake up dazed. Is the president of the largest Arab country really an Islamist? Is the elected leader of 80 million people really a representative of a movement that, mere months ago, was banned and its members hunted?

The Egyptian presidential election is at an end, and the winner - after a soporific speech by the head of the election commission - is Mohammed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood candidate. Mr Morsi won with 51.7 per cent of the vote, and his rival, Ahmed Shafiq, captured 48.2 per cent.

But the questions that everyone will be asking are far from trivial: what powers will President Morsi have? And what type of leader will he be; an ideologue or a unifier?

Despite the jubilation in Tahrir Square that ran on loud and long into the night, the announcement of the election marks the beginning of a new list of questions.

First, by the time the election winner was announced, a pincer movement of the old regime had diluted his powers, to the point where the political strength of the office will not be decided for some time.

And even if he rules will he be able to govern? Ahead of the final presidential run-off earlier this month the Supreme Court ruled that the parliament had to be dissolved, removing an important pole of power for the Brotherhood, whose political party had dominated the assembly. The people lost their sole elected representatives in Egyptian public life.

Since then the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (Scaf) has made a new constitutional declaration, essentially usurping to itself the power to decide key elements of political life. Scaf now has the power to object to any article in the new constitution, including the ability to dissolve the whole assembly and choose a new one.

With the election of a president, some democratic legitimacy has been restored, but serious questions remain - for Scaf's place in politics, and whether Mr Morsi will abide by his vow to lead by consensus.

In time, it is to be hoped that President Morsi will be merely the first democratically elected president of Egypt's 21st century. But before that happens, Egypt has many questions still to answer.