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Egypt’s Historic Election

June 27th, 2012

Egyptians celebrate their new president Mohamed Morsi, June 24, 2012. Photo: AP/Ahmed Gomaa

Egypt elected a new president over the weekend. Mohamed Morsi won in a very tight race. He represents a political party called the Muslim Brotherhood.

This election was historic because it was likely the first time Egyptians got to vote for their leader in the country’s roughly 5,000 year history. It’s also reportedly the first time the Egyptians have a civilian leader — someone who isn’t from the military or considered royalty.

Egypt's new president, Mohamed Morsi. Photo by: Jonathan Rashad via Wikimedia Creative Commons

Many people, both in Egypt and around the world, are hoping Mr. Morsi’s victory will help Egypt become more democratic — where people will have more freedom and say in the decisions that impact them.

It was a long, hard road getting to this point. Former President Hosni Mubarak ruled Egypt for the last 30 years and many young Egyptians had only him as their leader. Mr. Mubarak ruled as an autocrat, meaning his government had absolute power. Mr. Morsi had previously spent time in prison because his beliefs differed from Mr. Mubarak’s.

Last year (in early 2011), tens of thousands of Egyptians protested against President Mubarak. Protesters gathered in Tahrir Square in Egypt’s capital, Cairo, as well as other places. President Mubarak stepped down as Egypt’s leader 18 days later. Egypt didn’t have an official leader for about a year … until this weekend.

During that time, the military maintained power and many worried it might not give it up.

The election itself was a nail-biter because Mr. Mubarak’s prime minister and military commander, Ahmed Shafiq, became a candidate in the election and ended up in a very close race with Mr. Morsi.

Mr. Shafiq and Mr. Morsi had very different visions for what Egypt should be like so people around the world were paying extra close attention to the outcome.

A lot of people were surprised that someone with Mr. Mubarak’s regime would come so close to winning. The whole idea of the protests and election seemed to be to move away from Mr. Mubarak’s style of leadership.

When Mr. Morsi was announced the winner, many Egyptians returned to Tahrir square to celebrate the election results, as you can see from the photo above. But Egypt still has a long way to go if it wants to become more democratic. The military recently dissolved Egypt’s parliament (its style of government). And they are still working on a constitution — the set of rules regarding the rights of Egyptians.

It also remains to be seen whether Mr. Morsi will be tolerant of, and open to, other religions and beliefs. Another area of concern is whether women will be given more rights (be treated more equally to men). Some of Egypt’s relationships with other countries are very delicate and it will be important to see how he handles those, as well.

So, there’s a lot of uncertaintly and work ahead but some say Mr. Morsi’s election win is a start.

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To learn more about Egypt, click here .

To see an excellent timeline of the protests in Egypt (and other countries) by The Guardian newspaper, click here .

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