Mohamed Morsi, the president-elect of Egypt, and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, ought to show each other mutual respect in the coming days; neither should claim a monopoly of power. On Sunday, after a pregnant pause that lasted a week, SCAF recognized Mr. Morsi’s narrow victory in the presidential election. The hesitation was unsettling, perhaps intentionally so.
No one before Mr. Morsi has ever been chosen president, king or – for that matter – pharaoh of Egypt in a reasonably democratic election. The generals, who are the heirs of the old regime, need to acknowledge the inherent authority of the Egyptian people to choose their leaders. Between the two rounds of this election, SCAF saw fit to promulgate an interim constitution, giving themselves greater powers than the future president. It would be disgraceful for the generals to treat Mr. Morsi, who has a mandate, as a mere puppet.
On the other hand, Mr. Morsi was the candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood and its political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party. The depth of the Brotherhood’s allegiance to liberal democracy remains doubtful. Though Mr. Morsi has now resigned from the Brotherhood and the party leadership, his convictions can hardly have undergone a metamorphosis. His cabinet must include women, Christians and liberals (categories that often overlap).
This state of affairs invites some comparison with the history of Turkey in the past 60 years. The military, regarding itself as the guardian of the republic, carried out three coups d’état in that period, and heavily threatened one more. The preservation of secularism was one of the grounds that the military adduced. The present governing party in Turkey, the Justice and Development Party, has its ultimate roots in the Muslim Brotherhood. Though coups as a chronic condition are not a model to be followed, the moderation of the present Turkish government owes something to the Turkish military’s sense of guardianship.
It is to be hoped that the Egyptian military can exert a benign influence while keeping within a democratic constitutional framework.