Analysis: Egypt Islamists face new compromises with the military

June 26, 2012

Muslim Brotherhood's president-elect Mohamed Mursi speaks during his first televised address to the nation at the Egyptian Television headquarters in Cairo June 24, 2012. REUTERS/Stringer

Mohamed Mursi’s victory in Egypt’s presidential election takes the Muslim Brotherhood’s long power struggle with the military into a new round that will be fought inside the institutions of state themselves and may force new compromises on the Islamists.

Stripped of many of its powers in the past week by the generals, the presidency Mursi is set to assume bears little resemblance to the one that Hosni Mubarak was forced to give up 16 months ago after three decades in charge. That, together with a host of other factors, will put a break on how much Mursi, 60, will be able do in office.

Despite the historic magnitude of his victory – Mursi is Egypt’s first freely elected leader and comes from a group outlawed for most of its 84-year existence – the chances of rapid changes in domestic or foreign policies appear faint.

Some of Mursi’s more ambitious campaign pledges – his promise to implement Islamic sharia, for example – could well be shelved as the realities of office bite in a country that is deeply divided by the idea of Brotherhood rule.

As things stand now, Mursi does not even have a parliament to pass such legislation, even if he wanted to, although he will form both a presidential administration and appoint a prime minister and government. But the Brotherhood-led legislature, elected in January, was dissolved by the generals who have given themselves the power over legislation in its absence.

A constant theme of Egyptian history since army officers overthrew the king in 1952, the old rivalry between the Islamists and the military looks set to continue.

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