OPINION: Gerges: A Muslim Brother leads Egypt, have no fear

Tue Jun 26, 2012 1:24pm GMT
 

(Fawaz A. Gerges is Professor of International Relations and Director of the Middle East Centre at the London School of Economics. His new book, "Obama and the Middle East: The End of America's Moment?" came out this month. The opinions expressed are his own)

By Fawaz A. Gerges

LONDON, June 26 (Reuters) - The election of Mohamed Mursi as the first democratically chosen Islamist president in the Arab world represents an historic achievement for the Muslim Brotherhood, the most influential religiously-based movement in the Arab world. After decades of persecution and incarceration, what is unfolding today clearly shows the weight and influence of the Muslim Brothers, most of whom are centrist and modernist and accept democratic values, in shaping the political future of their society.

But beyond the historical significance of Mursi's election as president of Egypt, he will most likely be a transitional president - neither the commander-in-chief nor the executive. His presidency will be the weakest since the establishment of the Egyptian republic after the army toppled the old regime in 1952. He cannot declare war without the consent of the ruling generals and cannot veto the newly-established Defense Council in which the military has a voting majority.

The ruling generals will call the shots from behind and will be the driver. In fact, it is doubtful if the ruling generals would have allowed Mursi to assume office without a deal being reached with his Islamist movement. A compromise sees the army in charge of national security and foreign policy, while Mursi and the civilian leadership tackle the broken economy and fragile institutions. With minor exceptions, there will be no qualitative shift in Egyptian regional and international politics. The ruling generals will go to great lengths to maintain a monopoly on pivotal decisions in national security. They will fight tooth and nail to prevent Mursi from shifting Egypt's regional and international alignments.

After the celebrations subside, the fierce political struggle will resume with a vengeance. In the coming year there are big battles to be waged over the writing of the new constitution, the parliamentary elections, relations between the military and the civilian leadership, and the nature of the political system - presidential or parliamentary. Mursi will be pressed between a rock - the ruling generals - and a hard place - the rising expectations of the Egyptian people. The political fortunes of the Muslim Brothers will ebb and flow depending on how they manage to navigate this fierce power struggle.

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