60-year-old Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, an American-educated engineer who had won 52% of the vote in Egypt’s first post-Mubarak democratic election, was formally sworn in on Saturday at the Supreme Constitutional Court in Cairo.
This video shows a massive crowd in Tahrir exulting in celebration after Morsi’s victory was announced.
“We aspire to a better tomorrow, a new Egypt and a second republic,” Morsi said on Saturday to the judges who were present and who had been appointed by ousted leader Hosni Mubarak. The new Egyptian president also said that “Today, the Egyptian people laid the foundation of a new life of absolute freedom, a genuine democracy and stability.”
In the center of the front row was Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, who has been the head of state in charge of the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF), the military council that has served as Egypt’s interim government after Mubarak was overthrown in February of 2011. Tantawi will be the head of the defense ministry “by fiat,” says the New York Times.
Morsi’s official swearing sets the stage for a “power struggle.” The balance of power between Egypt’s president and the military remains a likely bone of continued contention. Morsi was sworn in under the interim Constitution that was issued by military decree on June 17 and that transferred most of the president’s powers to the ruling generals. Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood and the thousands of protesters occupying Cairo’s Tahrir Square have called the document illegitimate.
The generals symbolically handed over power to Morsi on Saturday in a martial ceremony at a parade ground on a nearby military base and Tantawi awarded Morsi a medal. But Morsi participated in Saturday’s official swearing-in not of his own wishes; he had vowed he would be sworn in before Egypt’s democratically elected and Islamist-led Parliament but the generals dissolved this body on the eve of the presidential election, under a ruling from the same Supreme Constitutional Court.
Saturday’s ceremony was actually the second time Morsi recited the oath. He had recited his oath a day earlier in a televised speech shown to a cheering crowd in Tahrir Square, saying that “The people are the source of authority.” He swore it a third time on Saturday at an auditorium in Cairo University filled with lawmakers from the dissolved Parliament, the ruling generals and foreign ambassadors.
Morsi has yet to name his cabinet; he has spoken of filling the positions of vice-president with a woman and a Coptic Christian. He has said that he will uphold Egypt’s treaty obligations, a tacit reference to its pact with Israel. But he also pledged to reconcile rival Palestinian factions, the militant Islamist group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip and is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Western-backed Fatah, which controls the Palestinian Authority and had counted on Mubarak’s government as its principal Arab sponsor.
Morsi has also said that he seeks to free Omar Abdel-Rahman, the blind sheikh jailed in the US who was the spiritual leader of the men who convicted in the 1993 attack on the WTC, a move sure to cause controversy in the US (I am actually writing this post in sight of the Freedom Tower, which is under construction on the site of the World Trade Center, and not far from New Jersey’s 9/11 memorial).
Morsi becomes Egypt’s fifth head of state since the overthrow of the monarchy 60 years ago.
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