Thousands of Muslim Brotherhood supporters in Cairo’s Tahrir Square cheered on Sunday afternoon as Egypt’s election commission declared Mohamed Morsy the winner of the country’s tightly contested presidential runoff election.

The Brotherhood candidate was elected with 51.73 percent of the vote or 13,230,131 of a total 25,577,511 valid votes cast.

Morsy succeeds Hosni Mubarak, who was overthrown after a popular uprising in February 2011. The 20-strong Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) then took power of the largest Arab nation.

SCAF, which has ruled since then, has this month curbed the powers of the presidency – meaning the head of state will have to work closely with the army on a planned democratic constitution. SCAF promised to hand over power to the democratically elected government after this month’s elections, but recent moves to expand the military’s authority have led to concerns that the junta will not do so.



Farouq Sultan, head of the Egyptian election commission, announced the results at 5:30 p.m. Cairo time in a press conference at the State Information Service headquarters in Nasr City. Morsy beat his opponent, former Mubarak prime minister Ahmed Shafik, by over three percentage points.

Israel extended a supportive hand to Egypt’s new leader soon after the results were announced, with the Prime Minister’s Office saying that Israel “looks forward to continuing cooperation with the Egyptian government on the basis of the peace treaty between the two countries, which is a joint interest of both peoples and contributes to regional stability.”

Morsy, 60, earned a doctorate from the University of Southern California and was a member of the Brotherhood’s guidance office for years, serving time in jail under Mubarak. He entered politics in 2011, when the Brotherhood founded the Freedom and Justice Party.

Shafik, a 70-year-old former air force commander who later served as civil aviation minister, was appointed Mubarak’s prime minister in January 2011 after the Egyptian Revolution, but resigned a month later.

The thousands of Brotherhood supporters in Tahrir Square greeted the dramatic victory by chanting “Allahu Akbar!” and waving national flags.

“Say! Don’t fear! The military must go!” the crowds chanted.

Shafik offered no immediate reaction.

He has said he would offer to serve in a Morsy administration.

Iran congratulates Egyptians for 'Islamic Awakening'

Iran’s Foreign Ministry congratulated Egyptians on Sunday for the victory of Morsy in the country’s first free presidential election and said the country was in the final stages of an “Islamic Awakening.”

“The revolutionary movement of the Egyptian people... is in its final stages of the Islamic Awakening and a new era of change in the Middle East,” the ministry said in a statement on the Iranian Students’ News Agency.

The United States congratulated Morsy for his “milestone” victory and urged the Muslim Brotherhood leader to form his government carefully and respect the right of all Egyptians as he takes power.

Click for special JPost features

“We congratulate the Egyptian people for this milestone in their transition to democracy,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said in a statement, calling on the new leader to ensure Egypt remains “a pillar of regional peace, security and stability.”

“We believe that it is important for president-elect Morsy to take steps at this historic time to advance national unity by reaching out to all parties and constituencies in consultations about the formation of a new government,” Carney said. He stressed the need for respect of the rights of all Egyptians, including women and religious minorities like Coptic Christians.

Shafik supporters react angrily

Meanwhile, independent daily Al- Masry Al-Youm reported that after the commission declared Morsy the winner, hundreds of Shafik supporters who had gathered in Nasr City chanted slogans including “False, false” and “The people want Shafik.” Some smashed the window of a car showing a Morsy campaign poster, the paper reported.

A spokesman for Morsy said: “This is a testament to the resolve of the Egyptian people to make their voice heard.”

In a press conference immediately after the announcement, a Morsy campaign spokesman said the newly elected president’s supporters would not leave Tahrir Square until the revolution was completed.

Shortly after the announcement, SCAF head Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi moved to congratulate Morsy on his election victory.

However, SCAF will retain control of the biggest army in the Middle East, whose closest ally is the United States.

Morsy has said he will respect international treaties, notably the one signed with Israel in 1979, on which much US aid depends.

“President Morsy will struggle to control the levers of state,” Elijah Zarwan, senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said in Cairo. “He will likely face foot-dragging and perhaps outright attempts to undermine his initiatives from key institutions.”

“Faced with such resistance, frustration may tempt him fall into the trap of attempting to throw his new weight around,” Zarwan told Reuters. “This would be a mistake. His challenge is to lead a bitterly divided, fearful and angry population toward a peaceful democratic outcome, without becoming a reviled scapegoat for continued military rule.”

Christians remain suspicious of Islamist president

Questions remain over the extent to which Morsy will operate independently of other Brotherhood leaders once in office; his manifesto was drawn up by the group’s policy-makers. The role Khairat al-Shater – the Brotherhood’s original candidate before disqualification by the election commission – might play has also been a focus of the debate in Egypt.

“I will treat everyone equally and be a servant of the Egyptian people,” Morsy said at his campaign headquarters in Cairo shortly after polling ended last Sunday, a week before his victory was confirmed by the Mubarak-era judicial body overseeing the vote.

But many Egyptians, not least the Christian minority, remain suspicious of Morsy and even more so of the group he represents. Anti-Brotherhood sentiment, fueled by both a hostile media and some of the group’s policies, has soared in recent weeks.

Meanwhile, in several cities in the province of Minya south of Cairo, hundreds of people took to the streets to celebrate Morsy’s victory, Al-Ahram weekly reported on Sunday evening, with many of the marches organized by the Brotherhood. Minya has one of the country’s highest Coptic Christian populations, among whom defeated candidate Shafik was favored.

Egyptians had expected to learn the runoff results last week, but the election commission announced Thursday it was postponing the announcement because of challenges made by both candidates’ campaigns. On Sunday morning, the commission said it had probed those appeals, and had followed up investigations into claims of electoral fraud.

Even before the results were announced Sunday, Morsy had already claimed to be the successor to the ousted president’s successor.

Tensions grew Sunday as Egyptians waited to hear the result.

On Sunday morning, Al-Masry Al- Youm led with the headline “Egypt awaits a president – and braces for ‘the worst,’” while Al-Watan daily wrote: “The Brotherhood sets the stage for Morsy, and an intense security alert in case of a Shafik victory.”

Egyptian social media reaches a fever pitch

Earlier on Sunday, Egypt’s interim prime minister, Kamal al-Ganzouri, dismissed as rumors recent reports that former vice president and former spy chief Omar Suleiman and several prominent businessmen had left Egypt in the case that Morsy came to power.

According to a report in Al-Ahram, Ganzouri told reporters that his interim government will hand over power on June 30, when the new president creates a cabinet.

In the build-up to the announcement, Egyptian social media reached a fever pitch with frantic tweets about army helicopters hovering over Cairo, fears the streets would descend into chaos post-announcement and reports the the country’s phone lines were jammed.

Twitter user Gigi Ibrahim tweeted that shops had closed in fear of a backlash, and blamed the “abnormal” situation on deliberate fear-mongering by SCAF.

Meanwhile, on his official Facebook campaign page, Shafik posted photographs of protesters in Tahrir Square with the caption, “These are historic moments... have you made history?” During and following the announcement of Morsy’s victory, “Muslim Brotherhood,” “SCAF,” “Tahrir Square” and “Egyptian” also became trending topics on Twitter.

Before the announcement, few troops were on the streets but security officials said they were ready to respond to trouble. Government workers around Tahrir Square were encouraged to go home for the day.

Streets in the center of the capital were very quiet, shops were closed and people stayed indoors, anxious for news and assailed by rumors of results favoring both of the candidates.

Tensions grew higher as the scheduled time of 3 p.m. drew near and then passed without the press conference starting.

Commission chairman Sultan finally opened the press conference at 4:40 p.m. with a warning that if the restless audience could not be quiet, the announcement would be canceled.

“Egyptians have inspired the world,” he began, as some expressed impatience with his almost hourl-ong speech. “I had hoped to announce the results today in moments of celebration, but not everyone gets what he wishes,” the chairman said.

Sultan said that while the election was the true representation of the people’s will, defeated candidates complained of fraud after the results. Noting that there had been 456 appeals by both candidates, he said the committee found 2,154 forged identity cards in the elections.

Regarding allegations that Christians had been prevented from voting in Minya, Sultan said a subsequent investigation showed it was unclear who had intimidated voters.

Reuters contributed to this report.

Please LIKE our Facebook page - it makes us stronger