The results of Egypt’s presidential election have been officially announced and the Muslim Brotherhood and its Palestinian wing, Hamas, are in a state of jubilation. Mohammed Morsi won with 51.7% of the vote, while the secularist former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq came in a close second with 48.2%. The Islamists shouldn’t get too excited. The fact remains that the Supreme Armed Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) remains in control of the country.
Protests in Egypt swelled as it was reported that Shafiq was going to be declared the winner. By all accounts, it was a close election but the preliminary tally showed Morsi ahead. If Shafiq became president, the population would have understandably seen it as a decision of SCAF and not the voters. By permitting a legitimate election, SCAF has avoided a confrontation with the Egyptian population while maintaining its hold on power.
SCAF prepared for this eventuality with a tremendous power grab right before the voting began. It gave permission to the military to arrest civilians for vague offenses like interfering with traffic and damaging the economy, accusations that will come in handy when cracking down on protests and strikes. The Supreme Constitutional Court then dissolved parliament under the pretext that party loyalists had illegally been elected as independents.
SCAF now gets to write Egypt’s next constitution that must then be approved by voters. New parliamentary elections will follow. The role of the president, and thus the Muslim Brotherhood, in this process is unclear.
There’s two more pieces of bad news. Hamas has launched about 150 rockets into Israel in the past week. Israeli President Peres says his country’s patience is almost run out. If the situation escalates, Morsi will be forced to confront Israel and SCAF will have to let him or it will be clear that it reduced the presidency to a mere figurehead. This doesn’t mean Egypt will go to war with Israel but the fighting will push it into a more openly anti-Western, pro-Hamas direction.
The second bit of bad news comes from Nonie Darwish at FrontPage Magazine. She reports that at least 75% of Egyptian-Americans voted for Morsi in the presidential primary and general election.
“While voters inside Egypt are almost equally split 50/50 between Sharia and non-Sharia, we find the votes of American Egyptian Muslims reflecting an unprecedented level of radicalization that surpasses most Muslim countries,” Darwish writes.
Now, for some good news. SCAF remains in control and Islamist popularity is declining. In February, 43% supported the Brotherhood and 40% supported the puritanical Salafist Nour Party. The Brotherhood’s support has downspiraled to 26% and the Nour Party’s to 30%. The secular vote during the presidential primary amounted to 56.31%, while the Islamist vote totaled 43.23%.
I wrote in FrontPage Magazine that if the issue became saving the revolution from SCAF, instead of a referendum on Islamism, then Morsi could win a landslide as secular candidates rallied behind him. This is indeed what the election became about, especially after SCAF’s power grab, but Morsi still only won by 3.5%.
Morsi’s victory is worrisome, but the thin margin of his win shows that a large number of Egyptians reject Islamism. Some opponents of Islamism voted for him only because their immediate concern was checking SCAF’s power. These anti-Islamist Egyptians are our hope for the future.
Ryan Mauro is ClarionProject.org's National Security Analyst and a fellow with the Clarion Fund. He is the founder of WorldThreats.com and is frequently interviewed on Fox News.