Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Morsi was declared the winner of Egypt's first free presidential election Sunday, and he proclaimed himself a leader "for all Egyptians," though he faces a struggle for power with the country's still-dominant military rulers.
The announcement by election officials touched off a joyous celebration of chanting and dancing in the sweltering heat by tens of thousands of Morsi's supporters jamming Tahrir Square, the birthplace of the uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak 16 months ago.
It also capped a week of growing political tension in the streets after authorities delayed announcing the results of the June 16-17 runoff election between Morsi and Mubarak's former prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq.
Tanks and other signs of heavy security had been deployed around the country, especially outside state institutions, in anticipation of possible violence reminiscent of the first days of last year's revolution.
President Obama telephoned the U.S.-educated Morsi to congratulate him on his victory and offer continued support for Egypt's transition to democracy. The White House said Morsi expressed appreciation for Obama's call and "welcomed U.S. support for Egypt's transition."
The reaction from neighboring Israel was subdued, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying he respected the results of Egypt's democratic process and hoped the peace agreement between the two countries would remain intact. Ecstatic residents in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip filled the streets, fired guns in the air in celebration and handed out candy.
Speaking on Egyptian television Sunday evening, Morsi declared he had a "message of peace. We will respect all international agreements." He did not mention Israel, but the remark seemed to be a reassuring nod toward respecting the peace treaty.
The election commission said Morsi won 51.7 percent in the runoff -- a margin of only 800,000 votes -- over Shafiq, a former air force colonel who was perceived to be the favorite of the military council that took over from Mubarak.
"I tell everybody in this memorable day, that because of your choice, your will, and after God's favor, I am a president for all Egyptians," the 60-year-old engineer, professor and former lawmaker said in his speech.
It was a stunning victory for the Muslim Brotherhood, a group that was outlawed under Mubarak. But the liberal and secular youth groups that drove the uprising were left wondering whether Egypt has taken a step toward becoming a repressive Islamist state or toward a new power-sharing agreement between Morsi and the military -- the traditional power brokers.
"This is not the best scenario I anticipated," said Sarah Kamal, an activist who was in Tahrir Square when Morsi's victory was announced. She cheered for him despite criticism from friends that Morsi would endanger a secular Egypt.
"I know they have sold the revolution short before. But they are better than the 'felool,' " she said, referring to the remnants of the old regime. "I will stand with the Brotherhood against the military for now, and later I will fight off the Brotherhood's hold," she added.
In his speech, Morsi sought to reach out to the activists. "I wouldn't have been here between your hands as the first elected president without the blood, the tears and sacrifices of the martyrs," he said.
A week ago, when the polls were closing in the runoff election, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces issued constitutional amendments that stripped the president's office of most of its major powers. The ruling generals made themselves the final arbiters over the most pressing issues still complicating the transition -- such as writing the constitution and passing the state budget -- and granted military police broad powers to detain civilians.
A court earlier dissolved the freely elected parliament, which was dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, leaving the military also in charge of legislating.
Tens of thousands of Morsi's supporters vowed to stay in Tahrir Square, pressing for the reversal of those actions by the generals. A leading member of the Brotherhood said the protesters would not leave until the military fulfills its promises to hand over power to a civilian president by July 1.
"The military council must live up to these demands or it would be reneging on its promises," he told Misr 25, the Brotherhood's TV station.