Global Politics

Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood Demands Military Step Aside

Egyptians are still waiting to find out who their next president will be. Both men who competed in last weekend's run-off election are claiming victory. Ahmed Shafiq is a retired air force general and former Prime Minister under Hosni Mubarak while Mohammed Mursi is from the Muslim Brotherhood, which proved Friday that it knows how to put people on the street as it called for another round of demonstrations against military rule.

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Hundreds of Brotherhood supporters camped in Tahrir Square Thursday night and the crowds swelled into the tens of thousands for Friday prayers.

The imam gave a highly politicized sermon denouncing the ruling military council's latest moves to consolidate its political power. He called on the generals to hand over authority to the winner of last weekend's vote.

The Muslim Brotherhood's candidate, Mohammed Mursi, he said, will be president for all Egyptians.

Then he told people in the square to keep up the fight.

"If Ahmed Shafiq is declared president," one man said, "that is against the will of the Egyptian people." "They want Mohammed Mursi."

"We'll have another revolution," another man chimed in.

Several people said they are ready to revolt again if they must and were quick to say that their second revolution will be peaceful.

But mixed with that show of resolve, there are also signs of acceptance — that the Brotherhood only has so much political leverage.

"There will be problems," a man on the street said. "Even if Mursi is named president of Egypt, he won't have any authority over parts of the state, including internal security or the army. Mursi will have to compromise."

In other words, the new president would have to cooperate with the ruling generals who have been running the show in Egypt since the fall of Hosni Mubarak.

"There are signs that the process of accommodation is under way already," said Joshua Stacher, an Egypt expert at Kent State University, who came to Egypt with the Carter Center as an election monitor.

Stacher said despite what is going on in Tahrir Square on Friday, Mohammed Mursi and his organization do not want an all-out confrontation with the military.

"The Muslim Brotherhood is a very pragmatic organization," he said. "And I believe that they will end up cutting a deal with the military over the presidency in exchange for their ability to continue to struggle for another day."

Stacher said the Brotherhood would prefer to continue that struggle electorally, not just in the streets because the ruling military generals are still the most powerful political actor in Egypt.

"They're the only force in this country that have the ability to offer ultimatums to all the other political forces in the country, while still maintaining options," he said. "They've structured this legally and through massive spectacles like elections to get buy-in from the population and to get buy-in from social forces, while at the same time marginalizing undesirable social forces like revolutionaries."

What is clear is that the Brotherhood can't put much pressure on the military all by itself. It would like to reach out to other revolutionary forces.

Mohammed Mursi held a news conference this afternoon. Appearing alongside him were representatives from various political factions. Mursi called on all Egyptians who support the revolution to take part in non-violent demonstrations.

As a show of his willingness to work with allies, he vowed to appoint non-Brotherhood people to top positions in his government, should he become the president.

Mursi's plea for unity might be too little, too late. Some revolutionaries are leery of the Muslim Brotherhood. Though what they have got in common, is animosity toward the ruling military council.

Mursi's rival for the presidency is Ahmed Shafiq, who has also spoken out ahead of the election commission's announcement on the official vote count.

Shafiq said he is confident he will be declared the winner this weekend.

"Everything happening in the square right now is an undemocratic threat to influence the outcome of the presidential election," he said.

Whoever becomes president, what is clear is that deep divisions in Egypt will remain.

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    Supporters of Mohammed Mursi in Tahrir Square on Friday. (Photo: Matthew Bell)

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    An Egyptian shows support for people in Syria. (Photo: Matthew Bell)

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    Tens of thousands of supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood's presidential candidate Mohammed Mursi turned in Tahrir Square today. (Photo: Matthew Bell)

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    Egyptians entering Tahrir Square today declare their readiness for martyrdom. (Photo: Matthew Bell)

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