Mohammed Morsi’s election: has democracy really won the day?

The electoral success of Mohammed Morsi confirms that last year's "Arab Spring" has been, gone, and given way to an "Islamist Spring"

How do you define democracy?
Valentina Colombo
On 3 July 2012 13:06

June 24th, 2012 will be a date to remember not only for Egypt, but also for the West. The proclamation of the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate, Mohammed Morsi, as the first president of post-Mubarak Egypt confirms that the Arab world is in the midst of an "Islamist Spring".

At the same time, Western governments’ reaction to Morsi highlights their complicity in bolstering the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) movement, which they mistakenly view as the only political alternative to the deposed dictators of the Arab world. While it is true that the MB has been the best organised opposition group, it would be a terrible mistake to forget the numerous leftist and secular parties, such as the Egyptian Tagammu party, which were active in the opposition under Mubarak and which will continue to drive the opposition.

In his first message to the nation, Mohammed Morsi sought to reassure: "We will keep all agreements and international treaties we signed with the whole world." 

Subsequently, he stated that "... it is necessary to return to normal relations with Tehran and strengthen them in order to create a balance at the regional level" because "... the normalisation of relations between Iran and Egypt is in the interest of its peoples and we are confident that by strengthening political and economic relations between the two countries, we would create more strategic balance in the region..."

This new “strategic balance” is likely, soon, to set Egypt at odds with the international community, currently seeking to restrict Iran's access to nuclear weapons and rein in its expansionist foreign policy drive.

Domestically, Morsi’s reassuring message to the nation reiterated his intention to build "... a constitutional, democratic and modern nation." However this contradicts what he had been preaching during the electoral campaign. In front of a crowd of Cairo University students he had repeated the historic motto of the MB: "... The Koran is our constitution, the prophet is our guide, jihad is our path and death in the name of God is our goal."

On the same occasion he also declared: "... Today we can introduce sharia because our nation can only achieve well-being thanks to Islam and Sharia. The MB and the Party of Freedom and Justice will obtain these results." It is clear that Morsi the candidate sang from a different hymn sheet than that used by Morsi the president.

Which is the genuine Morsi, candidate or president?

A quick analysis of Morsi’s Freedom and Justice Party’s campaign programme, the so called Mashru’ al-Nahdha ("Project Rebirth. Egyptian Rebirth based on Islamic tenets"), does not inspire overwhelming confidence. It is a 12-page document which starts and ends with Koranic quotations.

The first is from Sura al-Tawba, verse 105, which reads: “... And say: “Work, for Allah will see you work, so will His messenger and the believers.”” The last is from Sura Hud, verse 88, and reads: “My guidance is only from Allah; I rely only upon Him and towards Him only do I incline”.

Page three, which describes the party’s “values ??and ways of thinking”, states that these are “... derived from the foundations and principles of Islam applied in a truthful manner." Each point of the programme is introduced by a verse from the Koran that justifies and seals its contents. What this means is that no part of the MB’s political programme can contradict Islamic principles and that it is anything but a civic or pluralistic programme.

During his first speech Morsi announced his resignation from the MB and the Party of Freedom and Justice, in order to become the “president of all Egyptians”, suggesting perhaps that he would no longer be beholden to his former party’s political programme. But is it realistic to think that he can change his worldview overnight? As the journalist Othman Mirghany wrote in his op-ed in the Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, entitled “Has the MB changed?”: “... all this confirms is that they [the MB] practice political dissimulation and hide their aims as much as they can”.

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