- Associated Press - Sunday, June 24, 2012

CAIRO (AP) — Mohammed Morsi was declared Egypt’s first Islamist president on Sunday, chosen in elections that were the freest in Egyptian history but that left the nation deeply polarized between supporters of an old regime figure and those eager for democratic change.

It was the culmination of the tumultuous first phase of a transition launched 16 months ago with the uprising that ousted autocratic leader Hosni Mubarak, who was replaced by a ruling military council headed by Mubarak’s defense minister of 20 years. It is the start of a new struggle with the military to restore the powers that the ruling generals stripped from the presidency even before the victor was declared.

And it was not the outcome desired by most of the liberal and secular youth groups that drove the uprising.

“The revolution passed an important test,” said Yasser Ali, a spokesman for Mr. Morsi’s campaign, “but the road is still long.”

Mr. Morsi now has to calm public fears that he will push to remake Egypt as an Islamist state and show that he will represent a broader swath of the public beyond his own fundamentalist group, the Muslim Brotherhood. He also will have to try to urgently address the major problems facing Egypt — a sharp deterioration in security and a flailing economy.

** FILE ** Egyptian presidential candidates Ahmed Shafiq (left) and Mohammed Morsi (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra and Nasser Nasser)
** FILE ** Egyptian presidential candidates Ahmed Shafiq (left) and Mohammed Morsi ... more >

Mr. Morsi narrowly defeated Ahmed Shafiq, Mubarak’s last prime minister, with 51.7 percent of the vote versus 48.3 percent, the election commission said. Turnout was 51 percent.

Just one week ago, at the moment polls were closing in the runoff election, the ruling generals issued constitutional amendments that stripped the president’s office of most of its major powers. They made themselves the final arbiters over the most pressing issues still complicating the transition — such as writing the constitution, legislating, passing the state budget — and granted military police broad powers to detain civilians.

A few days before that constitutional declaration, a court dissolved the freely elected parliament, which was dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood.

A huge crowd of Morsi supporters celebrated in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the birthplace of the uprising, as soon as the result was announced on live television. Some released doves with Mr. Morsi’s pictures over the square, and others set off fireworks.

Morsi spokesman Ahmed Abdel-Attie said words cannot describe the “joy” in this historic moment.

“We got to this moment because of the blood of the martyrs of the revolution,” he said at a news conference after the results were announced. “Egypt will start a new phase in its history.”

The country’s last four presidents over the past six decades all came from the ranks of the military. This is the first time modern Egypt will be headed by an Islamist and a freely elected civilian.

“Congratulations because this means the end of the Mubarak’s state,” said Shady el-Ghazali Harb, a prominent activist who was among the leaders of the protests in January and February last year.

Farouk Sultan, the head of the election commission, described the elections as “an important phase in the end of building our nascent democratic experience.”

The results of the elections were delayed for four days amid accusations of manipulation and foul play by both sides, raising political tensions in Egypt to a fever pitch.

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