CAIRO, June 24: Muslim Brotherhood member Mohamed Morsi was declared Egypt’s first freely elected president on Sunday, capping a tumultuous and divisive election.

Morsi, who ran against Hosni Mubarak-era premier Ahmed Shafiq, won 51.73 per cent of the vote after a race that polarised the nation.

“The winner of the election for Egyptian president on June 16-17 is Mohamed Morsi Eissa al-Ayat,” said the head of the electoral commission, Faruq Sultan.

Morsi’s victory marks the first time Islamists have taken the presidency of the Arab World’s most populous nation, but recent moves by the ruling military to consolidate its power have rendered the post toothless.

Tens of thousands of Morsi supporters celebrated in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, waving flags and posters of the Islamist leader, who was jailed during the uprising that overthrew Mubarak early last year.

“God is greatest” and “down with military rule” they chanted as some set off firecrackers minutes after the electoral commission formally declared the result.

Across Cairo, cars sounded their horns and chants of “Morsi, Morsi” were heard.

Morsi won with 13,230,131 votes against Shafiq’s 12,347,380, Sultan said.

The election, in which more than 50 million voters were eligible to cast their ballot, saw a 51.8 per cent turnout.

Morsi resigned from his posts in the Muslim Brotherhood and its Freedom and Justice Party, which he headed, after he was declared the winner, the Brotherhood announced.

Military ruler Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, who took power when Hosni Mubarak was forced to resign in February last year, congratulated Morsi on his win, state television announced.

And the interim head of the Coptic church, many of whose faithful have expressed fears over the rise of Islamists, also congratulated Morsi.

Shafiq’s supporters who had gathered to hear the result with his campaign team in the suburbs of Cairo were devastated by the result.

Some women screamed and others cried as several men held their heads between their hands in despair.

“It’s a very sad day for Egypt. I don’t think Morsi is the winner. I’m very sad that Egypt will be represented by this man and this group,” Shafiq supporter Maged said.

The capital was tense before the announcement, with the city’s notoriously busy streets deserted and shops and schools closed.

Extra troops and police were deployed as military helicopters flew overhead.

The road to parliament was closed to traffic, and security was tightened around vital establishments as Egyptians waited nervously for the result.

The election has polarised the nation, dividing those who feared a return to the old regime under Shafiq from others who wanted to keep religion out of politics and who fear the Brotherhood would stifle personal freedoms.

Shafiq ran on a strong law-and-order platform, pledging to restore security and stability. He is himself a retired general, but as a Mubarak-era minister he is reviled by the activists who spearheaded the 2011 revolt.

President-elect Morsi was the Islamists’ fallback representative after their deputy leader Khairat El-Shater was disqualified.

In campaigning he sought to allay the fears of secular groups and the sizeable Coptic Christian minority by promising a diverse and inclusive political system.—Agencies


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