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For region's Islamists, Morsi win in Egypt expands sense of the possible

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Morsi’s win holds symbolic value for Islamist groups, says Michael Hanna, a Middle East analyst at the New York-based Century Foundation. “It validates in a very big way the turn to organized politics by Islamist groups and it obviously marks a moment of ascendance,” he says. “It probably sets a benchmark for the other Muslim Brotherhood affiliates and Islamist groups in the region … in terms of their expectations. It expands the notion of the possible.”

Pressure to be more than a symbol

In Libya, which just held its first election since the fall of Muammar Qaddafi, the local Muslim Brotherhood affiliate claims it has secured a respectable bloc of seats in the new national congress, based on preliminary results. Islamist party Ennahda in Tunisia took a plurality of seats last fall in elections for Tunisia’s constitutional assembly, the first post-uprising vote there. And in Gaza, Brotherhood offshoot Hamas has ruled since 2007.

Even in the Gulf, Morsi’s win may inspire some Islamist groups to reach higher, says Sultan Al Qassemi, a political commentator based in the United Arab Emirates.

“The Islamist movement in the UAE probably feels empowered by the rise of the Brotherhood in Egypt and may attempt to strengthen ties with the group in the hopes that pressure is put on the local authorities,” Mr. Qassemi says, adding that such a move would prompt a “severe backlash” from authorities.

For Israel, Morsi’s win is less than encouraging. But he has promised to respect international accords, and there is unlikely to be any change to the peace agreement with Israel. What is likely to change is Morsi's tone, as he comes under popular pressure to take a harsher stance.

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