As his supporters in Tahrir Square were chanting on Sunday for the end of military rule in Egypt, the country’s president-elect, Mohamed Morsi, had glowing words for none other than the army, saying he regarded it with a “love in my heart that only God knows.”
Morsi’s remarks, during his first address to the nation after his victory was announced, were an acknowledgment of his new, changed role. He had gone from being a representative of a banned Islamist group to the leader of a nation and its public’s chief negotiator with the military generals who assumed power after the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak in February 2011.
As the first freely elected president of Egypt, Morsi has a historic opportunity, but he faces a litany of challenges that could prevent him from becoming more than just a figurehead.
He will have to spar with the generals, who, just after the election, stripped much of the power from the presidency, and he must overcome the doubts of those who chose his opponent — nearly half of the voters — and millions more who did not vote.
Morsi will also have to convince Egyptians that he represents more than just the narrow interests of the Muslim Brotherhood and to soothe fears among many that his true goal is to bind the notion of citizenship itself more closely to Islam.
“The challenges are very strong,” said Mohammed Habib, a former deputy chairman of the Brotherhood who has worked with Mr. Morsi. “Everyone is watching him through a microscopic lens.” Asked if Morsi had what it takes to overcome those challenges, Habib said, “No, he doesn’t.”
Morsi, 60, an engineer with a doctorate in materials science from the University of Southern California, taught engineering at another California college and at Zagazig University in the Nile Delta. A lackluster, he was chosen to run after the Muslim Brotherhood’s first choice, Khairat el-Shater, was disqualified.