CAIRO (from June 24) — Egypt’s military rulers on Sunday officially recognized Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood as the winner of Egypt’s first competitive presidential election, handing the Islamists both a symbolic triumph and a potent weapon in their struggle for power against the country’s top generals.
Mr. Morsi, 60, an American-trained engineer and former lawmaker, is the first Islamist elected as head of an Arab state. He becomes Egypt’s fifth president and the first from outside the military. But his victory, 16 months after the military took over on the ouster of Hosni Mubarak, is an ambiguous milestone in Egypt’s promised transition to democracy.
Following a week of doubt, delays and fears of a coup after a public count showed Mr. Morsi winning, the generals showed a measure of respect for at least some core elements of electoral democracy by accepting the victory of a political opponent over their ally, Ahmed Shafik, a former air force general. “Today, you are the source of power, as the whole world sees,” said Mr. Morsi, pointing into the television camera during his victory speech.
Mr. Morsi’s status as president-elect, however, does little to resolve the larger standoff between the generals and the Brotherhood over the institutions of government and the future constitution. Two weeks before June 30, their promised date to hand over power, the generals instead shut down the democratically elected and Islamist-led Parliament; took over its powers to make laws and set budgets; decreed an interim Constitution stripping the incoming president of most of his powers; and reimposed martial law by authorizing soldiers to arrest civilians. In the process, the generals gave themselves, in effect, a veto over provisions of a planned permanent Constitution.
For much of Sunday, the capital was tense with apprehension that the panel of Mubarak-appointed judges overseeing the election might annul the ballot count and declare Mr. Shafik the president, completing a full military coup. Banks, schools and government offices closed early for fear of violence.
Tens of thousands of Brotherhood supporters and their allies against military rule gathered in Tahrir Square for the sixth day of a sit-in, demanding that the military roll back its power grab. Around 3:30 p.m., hushed crowds gathered around portable radios to hear the election commissioner’s rambling introduction of the official result.
Then they leapt to their feet: Mr. Morsi had won 51.7 percent of the runoff votes.
“Morsi, Morsi!,” the crowd chanted. “Down, down with military rule!”