U.S. President Barack Obama congratulated Egyptian President-elect Mohamed Morsy by phone on Sunday, and also called the Islamist’s defeated rival, Ahmed Shafik, to encourage him to stay active in Egyptian politics, the White House said.
The two calls took place hours after Morsy was declared Egypt’s first freely-elected president, sparking joy among Muslim Brotherhood supporters. Shafik, a former air force commander, was the last prime minister of Egypt’s long-time leader Hosni Mubarak.
“The president underscored that the United States will continue to support Egypt’s transition to democracy and stand by the Egyptian people as they fulfill the promise of their revolution,” the White House said in a statement about Obama’s conversation with Morsy.
“The president emphasized his interest in working together with the new Egyptian president and all Egyptian political groups to advance the shared interests between the United States and Egypt,” it said in a separate statement about the Shafik call, saying Obama urged him to help unify the Egyptian people.
Earlier on Sunday, the White House described Morsy’s victory as a “milestone” in Egypt’s transition to democracy and urged the new leader to respect the rights of all Egyptians, including women and religious minorities.
Shafik had promised to protect Egypt from being dragged back to the “dark ages” under Islamist rule.
Morsy was declared Egypt’s first democratic president on Sunday by the state election committee, which said he had defeated former general Ahmed Shafik with 51.7 per cent of last weekend’s run-off vote.
He succeeds Hosni Mubarak, who was overthrown 16 months ago after a popular uprising. The military council which has ruled the biggest Arab nation since then has this month curbed the powers of the presidency, meaning the head of state will have to work closely with the army on a planned democratic constitution.
Thousands of Brotherhood supporters burst into cheers on Cairo’s Tahrir Square, waving national flags, setting off fireworks and chanting “Allahu Akbar!” or God is Great, greeting a dramatic victory, tempered by the army’s continuing role.
“Say! Don’t fear! The military must go!” crowds chanted.
For Morsy, a U.S.-educated engineer who spent time in jail under Mubarak, a spokesman said: “This is a testament to the resolve of the Egyptian people to make their voice heard.”
Shafik, a former air force commander and Mubarak’s last prime minister, offered no immediate reaction. He has said he would offer to serve in a Morsy administration.
Morsy, 60, won the first round ballot in May with a little under a quarter of the vote. He has pledged to form an inclusive government to appeal to the many Egyptians, including a large Christian minority, who are anxious over religious rule.