Egyptian Military Holds On to Power Despite Presidential Vote
Muslim Brotherhood candidate wins presidency but is stripped of much of his power
CNN Wire Staff
June 18, 2012CAIRO (CNN) -- An Islamist backed by the Muslim Brotherhood declared victory as Egypt's first democratically elected president even as the country's military rulers issued a decree that stripped the position of much of its power.
The move by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces -- the military rulers in control since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak -- came Sunday at the conclusion of a two-day presidential runoff.
Even with no constitution, no parliament and, possibly, little power, the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsi declared victory late Sunday over Ahmed Shafik, who was Egypt's prime minister in the final days of the regime of Mubarak, who was ousted from power in February 2011.
Unofficial results released Monday by the state-run Al-Ahram news website showed Morsi with 11.2 million votes, or 52.3%, compared with 10.3 million for Shafik.
Shafik did not concede, saying votes had not yet been tallied in his stronghold districts, including portions of Cairo.
But whoever emerges as the winner, his power will be limited, based on an interim constitutional declaration released Monday by the military council.
Under the declaration, the military council retains the power to make laws and budget decisions for the country until a new constitution can be written and a new parliament elected.
The declaration says Supreme Council members "shall decide all matters related to military affairs, including the appointment of its leaders."
The president has the power to declare war, it says, but only "after the approval of the SCAF."
In the event of unrest in the country, like that which preceded Mubarak's ouster, the president can involve the armed forces to provide general security, but only "after receiving the approval of the SCAF," it says.
Under the military council's decree, Egypt's new constitution must be drawn up within three months.
The president will set the date for new parliamentary elections, and he will have the power to pardon. He also will have the ability to appoint government officials and ambassadors.
Last Thursday, the high court ruling that invalidated parliament and paved the way for the military council to dissolve the legislative body was derided by Morsi's spokesman as "a soft military coup." The spokesman, Jihad Hadad, said it was "full of legal loopholes."
In a victory speech on Monday, Morsi did not address the move by the military council.
Rather, he tried to allay fears that he would impose an Islamist state, promising "a civil, patriotic, democratic, constitutional and modern state."
"No one's rights will be left out of it, and no one will dominate over the other," he said in a speech at his campaign headquarters in Cairo. "The strong will not oppress the weak, and the weak's rights will not be forgotten because of irresponsibility."
As Morsi's supporters gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square to celebrate, questions were raised about the potential impact of the military council's decree.
"There is no parliament and there is no constitution," said Hamdi Nayim, who joined the celebration in the square.
"We need to make this constitution very quickly, and we need to fight with the army. ... We will not be satisfied if the army will control us and govern us here."
Each side in the election accused the other of voting irregularities.
The Supreme Presidential Electoral Committee had approved licenses for 53 organizations to observe the elections, including three international groups: the U.S.-based Carter Center, the South Africa-based Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa and the Arab Network for Monitoring of Elections.
Shafik's campaign filed more than 100 complaints, alleging "ballot rigging and stuffing."
It accused the Muslim Brotherhood of having bribed voters with "large sums of money and food" to back Morsi, while intimidating and threatening violence against Shafik's supporters.
The Muslim Brotherhood, in a statement posted on its website, denied the allegations and accused Shafik's camp of bribing voters.
Both sides called for an investigation.
But longtime Egyptian journalist Hani Shukrallah said that, regardless of the contortions of post-revolution politics, the most significant change is the one that has affected the minds of the voters.
"They have a sense of their own rights, they have a sense of their personal dignity, they are convinced that they can," he told CNN. "They look at the state as their servant and not their master, and this is something very new."
The impact of Egypt's internal strife on Israel, with which it has had a peace treaty since 1979, appeared scant. "All of these revolutions have very little, if anything, to do with Israel," Israeli President Shimon Peres told CNN. "For example, they don't have a plan; they are preachers, not strategists. And they have to come with solutions. Otherwise, Egyptians will return to the squares. You cannot set them back."
The Muslim Brotherhood will have to make some fundamental decisions about how to proceed in Egypt, he said.
"They have to decide how Egypt is going to produce bread for its people. Take the economy, take tourism for example. If they don't permit the tourists to wear the dresses they are used to, including a bikini, they will lose one of their most important branches."
Praying will not suffice, he said. "Praying is a spiritual commitment, not an economic doctrine. They have to offer an economic doctrine that fits the new age."
CNN's Ben Wedeman, Elise Labott, Salma Abdelaziz and Yasmin Amer and journalist Mohamed Fadel Fahmy contributed to this report.