We Egyptians will give Mohamed Morsi a try

On Sunday, when my laptop wasn't talking at me from a kitchen counter, it was cradled open on my arm. We waited for the results of the presidential elections. They were late – days late. Then they arrived, and the figures droned on to screaming point. But Judge Farouk Sultan was right to do it this way; he had to blow away all the suspicions and prove his committee's results beyond reproach.

The people had once again surprised them(our)selves: in the last few hours of the second round what had looked like a 15% turnout was transformed into 52%. We can assume that everyone who voted for either candidate in the first round went out and did it again – but then Mohamed Morsi got an additional 8m votes and General Ahmed Shafiq an additional 7m. These were votes made out of fear: to block the other candidate rather than push forward your man.

But this very negativity could have a positive effect. Morsi knows that more than half his support was given reluctantly – a last-ditch attempt to stop the regime regaining power. He also knows that 7 million people were driven to vote for Shafiq because they feared – or at least disliked – what they imagine the Muslim Brotherhood will do if it assumes power.

The streets were empty as we all listened to Morsi's first address on Sunday night. The new president appeared to have taken this message on board. He repeatedly stated that he saw himself as president of all Egyptians. He spoke of Christians and women – knowing they have special reason be wary of an MB man. He said many of the things we wanted him to say. He spoke of our murdered young people, and of the injured and their families; of freedom, human rights and social justice; of Egyptian sovereignty and interests. And as I listened I felt more and more hopeful.

We still have a major struggle ahead. The military leadership, Scaf, wants a degree of political control and economic independence that would make a democratic, transparent, accountable state impossible. The figures and power-brokers of the old regime are still there – and now we know that 4.5 million people voted for them, persuaded by love, interests or ready cash. And near and far there are foreign powers aligned with the old regime who believe their interests would be ill served by our renaissance.

But none of that's new. What's new is that Scaf has revealed its hand in its latest round of legalised power-grabbing; that we know the size of the support the old regime can muster; and that maybe, maybe, we have voted in a president whom we can support, or oppose with honour – without being shot.

A document in circulation lists the tasks people want the president to get on with immediately. People have been adding to it for days, but the first priority item has remained: an amnesty for the 12,000 young people the military has court-martialled – or have them retried by civil judges. Another: set up a real organisation to help the people injured and disabled by the police and military. A third: open the Rafah border and allow people and goods to move between Egypt and Gaza as between two friendly neighbouring countries.

Egyptians have been witnessing the punishing of Gaza throughout the last week, and we don't take it kindly that so many foreign statements about the new president reference Camp David or "peace" as their priority. They need to pack away their Israeli prism when looking at us 84 million Egyptians.

On Monday morning an Egyptian NGO announced it had set up a group of civil volunteers to track the president's words and actions. And the public prosecutor referred a corruption case he'd been holding back against General Shafik to the courts. Our roller-coaster story carries on.

Ahdaf Soueif is an Egyptian short story writer, novelist and political and cultural commentator. Cairo: My City, Our Revolution is published by Bloomsbury.

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