- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 24, 2012

Egyptians celebrated Sunday the election of their country’s first freely elected president - Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, who becomes the first Islamist head of state of the Arab world’s most populous nation.

Spontaneous displays of jubilation erupted throughout the capital, Cairo, after Egypt’s election commission announced that Mr. Morsi had defeated Ahmed Shafiq, who served as prime minister before longtime President Hosni Mubarak was ousted last year.

Commission Chairman Farouk Sultan announced in Cairo that Mr. Morsi won 51.7 percent of the vote and Mr. Shafiq 48.3 percent in the June 16-17 runoff election that followed last month’s presidential balloting.

Mr. Morsi assumes a post that has been largely stripped of authority by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the military panel that has been ruling Egypt since Mr. Mubarak was forced to resign amid Arab Spring protests.

Uncertainty over the Brotherhood’s intentions, especially how it will handle relations with the U.S. and Israel, has created unease in both countries.

White House spokesman Jay Carney offered congratulations to Mr. Morsi and the Egyptian people for “this milestone in their transition to democracy.”

“We believe in the importance of the new Egyptian government upholding universal values, and respecting the rights of all Egyptian citizens - including women and religious minorities, such as Coptic Christians,” Mr. Carney said.

“The United States intends to work with all parties within Egypt to sustain our long-standing partnership as it consolidates its democracy. We believe it is essential for the Egyptian government to continue to fulfill Egypt’s role as a pillar of regional peace, security and stability.”

Mr. Obama called both Mr. Morsi and Mr. Shafiq on Sunday.

According to a White House readout of the call with Mr. Morsi, the U.S. president congratulated him and “underscored that the United States will continue to support Egypt’s transition to democracy and stand by the Egyptian people as they fulfill the promise of their revolution.”

In a separate phone call, Mr. Obama commended Mr. Shafiq on a “well-run campaign” and “encouraged [him] to continue to play a role in Egyptian politics by supporting the democratic process and working to unify the Egyptian people,” the White House said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Jewish state “appreciates the democratic process in Egypt and respects its outcome.”

Questions about the future

Mr. Morsi, who received a doctoral degree in engineering from the University of Southern California and has two children who were born in the United States, has criticized Egypt’s relationship with the U.S.

“The Brotherhood has been clear that the strategic relationship, as it was configured under Mr. Mubarak, was not good for Egypt,” said Steven Cook, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington.

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