Islamist candidate wins Egyptian election
WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) -- The Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsi is the winner of the first free democratic presidential election in Egypt's history.
Morsi defeated former air force general and Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq by about a million votes out of 26 million total votes cas in the June 17 runoff election, the nation's election commission announced Sunday. .
Morsi will be the Arab world's first Islamist head of state.
Thousands erupted in celebration in Cairo's Tahrir Square.
The election commission announced that Morsi received 51.7% of the votes cast while Shafiq received 48.3%.
White House spokesman Jay Carney congratulated Morsi on his victory and said the new president has "the legitimacy and responsibility" to represent the Egyptian people.
In the past two weeks, the Egyptian military, which has held power since Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stepped down in February 2011, has taken several steps that undercut the new president's powers.
The military dissolved the parliament and instituted an interim constitution that turned the president into an almost-ceremonial figure, dependent on the military' council.
The military is also writing a new constitution.
The election is considered the first democratic vote for the presidency since the office was created in 1953. Egypt won its independence from the United Kingdom in 1922 and was governed by a king and a parliamentary government until a military coup in 1952.
The victory by Morsi comes more than a year after protest in Tunisia sparked the start of a wave of unrest in the Middle East and North Africa that came to be known as the Arab Spring. It also represents an historic moment for a political party that was illegal during much of Mubarak's regime.
Egyptians first massed in Tahrir Square in January 2011 in a protest that eventually ended the three-decade rule of Mubarak. The 84-year-old Mubarak has since been convicted on charges of failing to stop the killings of hundreds of protesters and on June 2 was sentenced to life in prison. In the past week, he has been reported as critically ill.
Morsi is U.S.-educated
Morsi is a U.S.-educated engineer, who received a doctoral degree from the University of Southern California in 1982. He spent time in jail during the Mubarak regime. He is known as a conservative Islamist who generally favors elimination of Western political, social and cultural influences in the Muslim world.
Morsi became the Brotherhood's candidate after its first choice, Khairat El-Shater, was disqualified.
Analysts are focused on whether Morsi would attempt to impose stricter Islamic rule in Egypt.
In his statement, Carney said the new Egyptian government must respect the rights of all Egyptian citizens -- "including women and religious minorities such as Coptic Christians."
Another key bilateral issue will be the status of Egypt's 1979 peace treaty with Israel.
"We believe it is essential for the Egyptian government to continue to fulfill Egypt's role as a pillar of regional peace, security and stability," Carney said.