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Middle East

Celebration and scepticism in Tahrir

Amid the excitement over Mohamed Morsi's election victory, there was deep concern over what comes next.
Last modified: 24 Jun 2012 19:45

From 10 floors above, on the roof of one of the buildings encircling Tahrir Square, you could see the crowd below was suffering in the 38-degree heat.

Droning through the jury-rigged speakers was Farouk Sultan, the head of the presidential election commission, who seemed intent on elaborating the results from every polling place in the country.

Meanwhile, supporters of Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Morsi stood in their thousands, dousing each other with water, holding their heads in their hands, and occasionally fainting.

Then, Sultan was suddenly announcing the final tally. The crowd erupted when he counted Ahmed Shafik's votes - roughly 12.3 million - but it was only a prelude to the deafening roar that followed Sultan's next statement: Morsi, with 13.2 million votes, was Egypt's new president, the first ever to be democratically elected.

For a sustained minute, Tahrir Square was ecstatic, with drums barely audible beneath the wave of noise from thousands of supporters who had waited for this moment since the elections began in May. Thousands of others flowed into the square from the side streets, swelling the crowd.

Adham Lotfy, a 28-year-old parking garage owner, said he was proud and happy that "justice" had been done.

"We're finally going to be respected, we've been oppressed for too long," he said.

Power from the people

Ibrahim Youssef, a 23-year-old English teacher from Mansoura, north of Cairo, said Morsi now must come to Tahrir and acknowledge that his power came from the people, not from the military or the state apparatus.

"I'm from the Brotherhood, but if Dr Mohammed Morsi refuses to respect these votes, I will refuse him," Youssef said.

"I will come to Tahrir Square if he refuses to respect the people's desire."

In the exuberant, sweltering crowd, men kissed each other on the forehead, crowded around juice vendors and watched as endless fireworks shot into the air.

Several men shouted insults about Tawfik Okasha, a prominent Egyptian talkshow host who has served as a sycophantic voice for the Shafik campaign.

But amid the excitement and joy, there was deep concern over what comes next.

"I'm very sceptical, and I fear what is still to be done," said a woman who didn't want to give her name.

Lotfi and his friends said reconciliation with Shafik's supporters and sympathisers of the old regime would be difficult if not impossible.

"It's in their blood," Lotfy said.