On Sunday night, Egypt made history by democratically electing its first President, a US-trained academic and senior member of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, Mohammed Morsi. Eager crowds waiting in Tahrir Square, the focal point of Egypt's 15 month revolution, erupted in massive jubilation at the news of Morsi becoming its first democratic President. But what does Morsi's election mean for Egypt in the fast changing political landscape of the Middle-East?
There are reports of panic at the echelons of power in Israel who are worried at the election of an Islamist as President of Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood have over the years through its Palestinian arm, Hamas, fought the State of Israel from Gaza. A statement from the Israeli Prime Minister's office on Sunday, moved swiftly to dispel any suspicion of disaproval at the election results and rather offered its congratulations to Egypt and its people. The statement said "Israel appreciates the democratic process in Egypt and respects the results of the presidential elections. 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.”
But with an increasing Islamisation of the Middle-East, Israel has real reasons to panic. Mohammed Morsi had always openly condemned the 1979 Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty which sets out agreements between the two countries to ensure lasting peace in the Middle-East. Morsi believes the treaty is unfair to Palestinians and it is generally a one-sided agreement. Dore Gold, president of the Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs and a former adviser to Netanyahu, said "Ideologically, the Muslim Brotherhood has been against the state of Israel, and its Palestinian branch, Hamas, has waged war against Israel for many years but at the same time, in a position of leadership the Muslim Brotherhood will have to feed the Egyptian people and deal with the outside world."
Yesterday Morsi moved to dispel any fears in the Middle-East (and the world), of an Islamist regime by resigning from the Muslim Brotherhood and stating clearly his will be a secular government that will put the interest of all Egyptians before everything else. This came as comfort statements to the Christian minority in Egypt known as the Coptic Christians who form abround 10% of Egypt's population and have at various times been locked in religious confrontation with the majority Muslim population. Morsi has promised not to turn Egypt into a theocracy and will respect international treaties and obligations. There are real fears about how Morsi's leadership will affect women's rights, business and freedom of speech in Egypt, given the hard-line stance of the Muslim Brotherhood which he formerly belonged.
The rest of the world waits to see how Morsi will deal with the tough, gritty politics of the Middle-East and respect international peace accords. But one thing is for sure, Egyptians had a vision and they got it (though with much bloodshed). They removed a dictator and installed a government of "their" choice. Whether the world likes it or not, that is democracy and people power in action. Those reasons alone are enough to celebrate.