CAIRO, Egypt, June 24, 2012— -- Egypt's election commission announced today that the Muslim Brotherhood's candidate, Mohammed Morsi, had won the country's first contested presidential election, making him the first Islamist president in the Arab world.
He defeated ousted President Hosni Mubarak's last Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq by a margin of 4 percent, just shy of 1 million votes.
Tahrir Square, the birthplace of last year's revolution that deposed Mubarak and the site of several large pro-Morsi demonstrations in recent days, exploded with jubilation.
Tens of thousands had gathered to hear the results, which were followed by an ear-splitting cacophony of fireworks, horns and honking that continued for hours after they were released.
In his victory speech Sunday night, Morsi spoke at length about the historic nature of the election and calling for national unity.
"I'm your president, but not without you. I'm your president, but I'm not the best of you," he said.
Egypt had been a pressure cooker since last weekend's historic election, with both candidates declaring victory and speculation growing that despite a projected win for Morsi, Shafiq would be named the winner.
Fueling the tension, the ruling military council last Sunday released a constitutional declaration that dramatically reduced the power of the next president, a move that followed the dissolution of the freely-elected, Muslim Brotherhood-dominated parliament.
After an excruciatingly long preamble by the head of the Supreme Presidential Election Commission today, Morsi was declared the winner with 13.3 million votes to Shafiq's 12.3 million. More than 840,000 ballots were voided.
"Only today do I feel like a true Egyptian, only today I feel like a true human being," said Ahmed Shabana on Tahrir Square, surrounded by chanting Morsi supporters. "I can get my rights from today. It's only from today that live to be a free Egyptian."
Expressions of joy over Morsi's victory were quickly followed by warnings that Egypt was still far from a true transition to democracy, given the military's expansive powers.
"This is the beginning of a new era, a new regime to remove all the corrupted old regime," Annan Ali said. "But this is only the beginning. As long as military still have upper hand in our country, our revolution isn't successful yet."
Many feared renewed unrest and violence if Shafiq had won or the election had been thrown out.
"A disaster was averted. If Shafiq had won it would have been the end of the transition and the revolution as we know it," said Shadi Hamid of the Brookings Doha Center. "At least now the revolution continues, however imperfect."
Morsi was quickly congratulated by Field Marshall Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, who has been ruling Egypt as head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces since Mubark was deposed last March. Soon after, he received the congratulations of Palestinian militant group Hamas, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The White House said it looked forward to working with Morsi "on the basis of mutual respect, to advance the many shared interests between Egypt and the United States."
The political battles between the Muslim Brotherhood and SCAF will begin almost immediately. A new constitution must be written, passed by referendum and then parliamentary elections run again. Under the constitutional addendum, SCAF has essentially reserved veto power over the next constitution, meaning the political wrangling could go on for some time.
"They have to find a way to live together at least in the short run. SCAF can't destroy the Brotherhood and the Brotherhood can't destroy SCAF," Hamid said. "So there has to be an arrangement."
Morsi's biggest test will be on the economy, which has fallen apart since the revolution. Little is expected to change in the realms of foreign policy or sweeping social changes that many fear with an Islamist administration.
"I have no rights, I have duties," Morsi said in his victory speech.
In some of his most policy-specific language, he said Egypt wouldn't interfere in other countries and warned others not to interfere in Egypt. He also vowed to maintain all international agreements, a clear reference to the 1979 peace deal with Israel.
Morsi's energetic supporters in Tahrir Square vowed to maintain the pressure, threatening continued public protest if the military council doesn't loosen its grip on power.
But for now, at least, the post-revolutionary period's biggest hurdle has been cleared with none of the bloody violence that has been seen during the revolution and since.
"We didn't know where the army would take us after 18 months," said Sayed Hussein on Tahrir. "But now, we know where we are. Now we feel we can breathe now."