Power Struggle Begins as Egypt’s President Is Formally Sworn In (NY) TIMES) By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK CAIRO, EGYPT 07/01/12)
NEW YORK TIMES
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CAIRO — Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood was formally sworn in
on Saturday as the first democratically elected president of Egypt,
signaling a new stage in an ever murkier struggle to define the
future of the nation after six decades of military-backed autocracy.
Proclaiming “a new Egypt, the second republic,” Mr. Morsi
declared, “Today the Egyptian people have established a new life,
with real freedom and real democracy.”
More immediately, though, his inauguration begins a through-the-
looking-glass period of government at war with itself. As Egypt’s
first civilian president and the first Islamist elected to lead an
Arab state, Mr. Morsi has vowed to fulfill the goals of the Egyptian
revolution by building the institutions of democracy on a foundation
of Islamic principles.
But he must first wrest power from the generals who have ruled Egypt
since the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak. Although they trumpeted
their handover on Saturday, they have taken only a small step behind
the scenes to accommodate Mr. Morsi’s election.
His swearing-in ceremony itself was redolent with tension. Mr. Morsi,
against his wishes, took the oath before a court of Mubarak-appointed
judges; he had vowed to swear in before the democratically elected
and Islamist-led Parliament, but the generals dissolved it on the eve
of his election under the pretext of a ruling from the very same
Seated in the curved alcove at the front of an empty courtroom, Mr.
Morsi frowned and stared ahead as senior judges stood to deliver
speeches as much about the importance of their own Supreme
Constitutional Court as about his historic inauguration.
“We welcome you in this Supreme Constitutional Court and we
appreciate your presence here today in this great judicial
institution,” said Farouk Sultan, the president of the court. “Your
physical presence here today is a real symbol of support for
constitutional legitimacy and upholding the law over everyone.”
In inviting the new president to take the oath, Judge Sultan
specifically cited the authority of the interim Constitution issued
by military decree on June 17, which transferred most of the powers
of the president’s office to the ruling generals — a document Mr.
Morsi, the Brotherhood and thousands of demonstrators occupying
Tahrir Square have called illegitimate.
In his own briefer remarks after taking the oath at the court, Mr.
Morsi pushed back with a jab at the judges’ role in the dissolution
of Parliament, referring repeatedly to the separation of powers. “I
respect the judiciary and the legislature and I will work to keep
them independent from each other and from presidential power,” he
said. “The judicial power, the executive power, the legislative
power — we will all go forward together.”
Mr. Morsi pre-empted the generals’ planned inauguration by reciting
his oath a day earlier in a televised speech before a rapturous crowd
that filled Tahrir Square, the heart of the revolution. And on
Saturday, Mr. Morsi proceeded to recite the same oath a third time,
in a Cairo University auditorium packed with lawmakers of the
dissolved Parliament, the ruling generals and foreign ambassadors.
Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, who had acted as head of state
until Saturday and will maintain the title of defense minister by
military fiat, sat at the center of the front row.
“Egypt will not go backward,” Mr. Morsi said. “In the new Egypt, the
president will be an employee, a servant to the people.”
But he also continued his unmistakable efforts to wield the prestige
of his new post against the ruling generals. Without acknowledging
the dissolution of the legislature, he praised the Parliament as a
triumph of democracy. “The people projected their will and exercised
their power with the election of Parliament in free and fair
elections representative of society,” he said. He dedicated a “big
salute” to the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces for its
role in safeguarding the transition.
But he also pointedly called for the military to return to the
barracks and borders. “The elected institutions will come back to
play their role and the Egyptian armed forces, Egypt’s great army,
will go back to its main job to maintain and safeguard the borders,”
he said, pledging to keep the armed forces “strong and solid, to work
with the other institutions of the government, within the
Constitution and within the law.”
In his remarks on Friday, he had avoided any mention of the armed
forces, either laudatory or confrontational, in a signal that
negotiations between the Brotherhood and the generals continue behind
the scenes to resolve the standoff over the balance of powers.
Like almost all Egyptian orators, Mr. Morsi missed no opportunity to
invoke God’s oversight. But he never mentioned Islamic law. Its
adoption had been a staple of his stump speeches during the first
round of Egypt’s presidential elections, when he campaigned against
rival Islamists, but he dropped it when he pivoted into the runoff
against a more secular opponent.
Addressing the world, Mr. Morsi proclaimed “a message of peace as
well as righteousness and justice.” He repeated his pledge to uphold
Egypt’s treaty obligations, implicitly including its pact with Israel.
“We are not exporting revolution and we do not interfere with the
affairs of others, or allow interference in our own affairs,” he said.
But he also promised with new force that he would work for the
reconciliation of the rival Palestinian factions: the Western-backed
Fatah, which controls the Palestinian Authority, and the militant
Islamist group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip. Fatah had
previously looked to the Mubarak government as its principal Arab
sponsor, while Hamas — an offshoot of the Brotherhood — is
increasingly looking for leadership from the new leaders in Cairo.
“I say from here that Egypt is with the Palestinian people,” he
said. “We will work for reconciliation until they unite and get their
And he singled out the uprising in Syria. Backed by the Syrian
affiliate of the Muslim Brotherhood, the rebels have lost thousands
of lives and been enmeshed in daily battles against the forces of
President Bashar al-Assad. “We want this bloodshed to stop and we
will work on that,” Mr. Morsi said. “We do not forget the Arab
In the most theatrical moment of the day, the generals then formally
handed over power at a martial ceremony at a parade ground on a
nearby base. Field Marshal Tantawi saluted the new president. “We
kept our promise,” he said, presenting Mr. Morsi a medal.
Although supporters of Mr. Morsi in Tahrir Square still chant for the
end of military rule, he played along and commended Field Marshal
Tantawi for submitting voluntarily to the will of the people. “It is
a grand day for Egypt,” Mr. Morsi said. Then he posed for a picture
surrounded by generals.
In truth, their handover — and with it the Egyptian revolution —
remains far from complete. A new constitution is yet to be written
and the balance of power between the president and the generals is
still undefined, and Mr. Morsi has not yet named a new cabinet. But
it appeared Saturday that Mr. Morsi — an engineering professor of
modest stature and small charisma — had gained new clout from the
trappings of presidency.
He came and went in a Mercedes limousine surrounded by a motorcade
and presidential guard. He was greeted at Cairo University by a
formal salute from a military color guard. His movements and
statements were broadcast attentively by Egyptian state television,
whose newscasters had appeared until a few days ago to harbor a bias
The main headline in the flagship state newspaper quoted Mr. Morsi’s
speech on Friday: “The people are the source of authority.”
Mai Ayyad contributed reporting. (Copyright 2012 The New York Times
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