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New Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi promises to be 'leader for all Egyptians'

The Muslim Brotherhood candidate is the country’s first Islamist leader, but has pledged to try and build national unity.

An Egyptian waves a national flag over Tahrir Square as people celebrate the election of Mohammed Morsi.
An Egyptian waves a national flag over Tahrir Square as people celebrate the election of Mohammed Morsi.
Image: Amr Nabil/AP

EGYPT’S NEW PRESIDENT has pledged to be a leader for all Egyptians, after becoming the first Islamist to be elected president of the Arab world’s most populous nation following a divisive election.

Mohammed Morsi, the country’s first elected leader since a popular uprising ousted president Hosni Mubarak last year, won 51.73 per cent of the vote against ex-premier Ahmed Shafiq.

“I will be a president for all Egyptians,” Morsi said just hours after he was declared the winner. ”I call on you, great people of Egypt… to strengthen our national unity.” National unity “is the only way out of these difficult times”, he says

Morsi, who has resigned his membership of the Muslim Brotherhood to take the top job, also thanked the “martyrs” of the uprising for the victory. “The revolution continues,” he added.

The election came after 18 months of a tumultuous military-led transition from Mubarak’s rule, marked by political upheaval and bloodshed.

Hundreds of thousands of Morsi supporters erupted in celebration in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the symbolic heart of the uprising that brought down the Mubarak regime in February 2011.

Cheering Egyptians waved flags and posters of the Islamist leader, who was jailed during last year’s uprising. ”God is greatest” and “down with military rule” they chanted, as fireworks went off over the square. Across Cairo, cars sounded their horns and chants of “Morsi, Morsi” were heard.

International welcome

US President Barack Obama congratulated Morsi on his victory and pledged his country’s support for Egypt’s transition to democracy.

Obama also called Shafiq to encourage him to keep supporting the democratic process “and working to unify the Egyptian people.”

Losing candidate Shafiq, who was widely perceived as the military’s candidate, joined the country’s military ruler Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi in congratulating Morsi, the official MENA news agency reported.

The interim head of the Coptic Church, many of whose faithful have feared the rise of Islamists, also congratulated Morsi.

UN leader Ban Ki-moon called on him to build strong, independent institutions and develop democracy and the European Union called on him to reach out to all other political and social groups.

Official results showed Morsi winning 13,230,131 votes to Shafiq’s 12,347,380, in an election which saw a 51.8 per cent turnout with over 50 million votes cast.

Shafiq supporters, who had gathered to hear the result with his campaign team in the suburbs of Cairo, were devastated by the result. Some women screamed and others cried as several men held their heads between their hands in despair.

The capital was tense before the announcement, with the city’s notoriously busy streets deserted and shops and schools closed. Extra troops and police were deployed and military helicopters flew overhead.

A country divided

The election had polarised the nation: while some feared a return to the old regime if Shafiq won, others wanted to keep religion out of politics, fearing that the Brotherhood would stifle personal freedom.

Shafiq ran on a strong law-and-order platform, pledging to restore security and stability. He is himself a retired general, but as a Mubarak-era minister he is reviled by the activists who spearheaded the 2011 revolt.

President-elect Morsi was the Islamists’ fall-back representative after their deputy leader Khairat El-Shater was disqualified from running.

During his campaign he sought to allay the fears of secular groups and the sizeable Coptic Christian minority by promising a diverse and inclusive political system.

Both Morsi and Shafiq had claimed victory in the election for a successor to Mubarak, and tensions rose after the electoral commission delayed announcing the official outcome of June 16-17 second-round run-off. The results had initially been due on Thursday.

But the dispute between the Brotherhood and the military remains unresolved: the Brotherhood has rejected a constitutional declaration by the military that dissolves the Islamist-led parliament and gives the army a broad say in government policy and control over the new constitution.

The move effectively strips away any gains made by the Islamist group since the popular uprising, and was adopted just days after a justice ministry decree granted the army powers of arrest.

- © AFP, 2012

Read: And the winner of the Egyptian presidential election is…

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