Egypt’s President Morsi?

At The Arabist, Steve Negus writes: Mohamed Morsi’s apparent win is the latest conventional-wisdom-defying turnabout in Egyptian post-uprising politics. Pronounced dead by some after the June 14 parliament-dissolving court verdict and the presumption that Shafiq would win the presidency, the transition has just got out of its sarcophagus for a few more lurches around the burial chamber.

In looking at what brought the victory and what it will produce, I going to assume that the most detailed figures I’ve seen — those released by the Morsi campaign — are substantially correct. That’s a big “if”, but there is some corroboration. Also, the numbers should soon be verifiable. Even if you don’t trust the elections commission, both international observers and candidates’ representatives were allowed much more access to the adding up of votes from different stations than in May, from what I understand.

First, the turnout. Morsi’s numbers say that a supposedly dispirited electorate actually went to the polls in numbers about 20 percent higher than in the first round. Maybe it’s because the choices are now clear, and fear is a more potent motivator than hope. But if you look where the turnout is highest, this suggests rural machine politics on both sides. Upper Egyptian governorates (aka Morsiut) seem to have produced vote counts 150 percent of what they were in May. The Delta (aka Shafiqiya) was also up 20–50 percent. Cairo in contrast dropped a bit, as did Alexandria. Giza was up about 15 percent.

I have heard that both sides were busing in supporters to stations — presumably old NDP party organizers and Coptic groups for Shafiq, Islamists for Morsi. This probably involves improper influence on polling day and is technically an infraction but it’s understandable. A lot of voters live outside areas where they are registered and don’t have the resources to travel to vote on their own, so it’s a question of partisan busing or de facto disenfranchisement.

Morsi’s apparent win means more short-term uncertainty. I don’t think he’s capable of ushering in the Caliphate any more than Shafiq is capable of bringing back the Mubarak era (more on that below). The Islamist’s narrow victory, following the five-way split of the first round, means that his only popular mandate will be that he’s not Shafiq. He’ll be a president with only limited, temporary constitutional powers, facing off against a military who’s quite capable of vetoing whatever he does by means administrative, judicial, and now legislative. He will have very little of either moral or institutional power to shape the drafting of the constitution, and he will live under the Sword of Damocles of another court ruling.

I suspect that the Brothers will acquiesce to the creation of a constitution — any constitution — to give the electoral battles that they are capable of winning, but not using, some permanence. SCAF now essentially controls the drafting process, with the Brothers at best given a spoiling role, so it’s quite possible now that we settle into a Turkey-ten-years-ago or Pakistan-now style of uneasy military-civil government coexistence. [Continue reading…]

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