Mohammed Morsi, the candidate fielded by the Muslim Brotherhood, was declared the winner Sunday in the Egyptian presidential runoff election held earlier this month.
Electing their own president in their first free election following the region's "Arab Spring" revolutionary democracy movements is a historic achievement for the people of Egypt, a great power in the Middle East and North Africa.
But it remains to be seen whether Egypt's democratization will prove successful. This is not only because there is no affinity between Islamism and democracy, but because the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), the interim ruler of the country, may not relinquish power.
The extent to which Morsi will be able to advance democratization while avoiding confrontation with the military remains uncertain.
Morsi gained about 52 percent of the vote, just ahead of his rival, former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq. The rise in the power of Islamism in the aftermath of the collapse of the former Egyptian regime led by Hosni Mubarak continued in the presidential election. But nearly half of Egyptians are still anxious about the Brotherhood.
Islamism vs secularism
After being declared the election winner, Morsi said, "I am a president for all Egyptians," thus emphasizing his stance of giving consideration to secular elements. He also said he has respect for the military.
The statements apparently reflect his intention to overcome the nation's polarization into Islamism and secularism.
But the road to this goal will be a rocky one.
In the first place, the SCAF has greatly restricted the authority of the president's office. In addition, Morsi's support base is weak.
The SCAF has dissolved the country's parliament, in which the Brotherhood was the dominant force. The SCAF has issued amendments to a "constitutional declaration" that is equivalent to a provisional constitution, thereby grabbing powers over legislation and the appointment of those who will draft a new national charter. This will make it possible for the SCAF to intervene in the process of formulating a new constitution.
These developments will considerably delay a real transition to civilian control.
But it is to be noted that one factor behind the difficulty in creating a new constitution is that the Islamist forces themselves failed to smoothly select drafters of a charter in the parliament.
Mutual concessions vital
Whether Islamist forces and the military can make concessions to each other to work toward an early formulation of a new constitution is the key to progress in the country's democratization.
The Egyptian economy is in dire straits. Last year's political upheaval directly impacted tourism, a major industry of the country, and led to a drop in foreign investment. The country's foreign exchange reserves dropped sharply. The military administration has been holding talks with the International Monetary Fund to obtain financial aid.
If Egypt is to restore public safety and reconstruct its economy through international assistance, it is essential for the president-elect and the military to cooperate with each other.
Islamist forces have been on the rise in Arab countries where long-ruling autocrats have been overthrown. Will democratization move ahead after all in Egypt? How the Morsi-led government will turn out is a crucial test for the future of the region
Source : yomiuri.co.jp