Says no institution will be above the people

Mohamed Morsy was sworn in as Egypt’s first elected President on Saturday, a day after he announced at Cairo’s Tahrir square that he drew his legitimacy not from the country’s military junta but from the people who had already demonstrated their power by toppling former strongman Hosni Mubarak.

In his first address on Saturday after his inauguration at Cairo University, Mr. Morsy said the Egyptian revolution was irreversible. “Egypt will not go backwards,” he told an elite audience, which included Field Marshall Hussein Tantawi, the head of the Supreme Command of the Armed Forces (SCAF), a powerful body made up of Egypt’s top generals. Mr. Morsy praised the “free and fair” elections to Parliament — remarks that could be interpreted as a veiled criticism of SCAF, which had dissolved the People’s Assembly following a Supreme Court ruling that elections to one-third of the seats were unconstitutional.

Earlier, in a rousing address at Tahrir square on Friday, Mr. Morsy said he was a people’s President. “I am here today with you, with the Egyptian people,” he told a cheering crowd. Later, to reinforce that he was one with them, Mr. Morsy pulled up his coat to show his supporters that he was not protected by a bulletproof vest. “I have nothing to protect me from any bullets. I fear God almighty and then I work for you.” Mr. Morsy’s down-to-earth demeanour contrasted sharply with the former President, Hosni Mubarak, who spoke only under heavy protection from his security team.

Resonant speech

With his speech resonating well with the jubilant crowd, Mr. Morsy attacked SCAF, which has in recent weeks gone into overdrive to grab power from the country’s elected representatives. He insisted that “no institution will be above the people”, slamming the army which is refusing to accept civilian oversight. “You are the source of authority,” he told the crowd.

Mr. Morsy also pledged to work for the release of civilians arrested by the army since the revolution. His statement touches a raw nerve since more than 12,000 people have been hauled before military tribunals since February 2011. Mr. Morsy also sought to soothe fears among the minority Coptic Christians by stressing that all Egyptians were equal before law.

Despite his generally conciliatory address, Mr. Morsy did court some controversy when he promised to bring home Omar Abdel Rehman, the “blind Sheikh” who has been convicted on terrorism charges in the United States.

By taking the oath before the people, Mr. Morsy, seemed to have resolved the dilemma dogging the Muslim Brotherhood to which he belongs. Had he agreed to a swearing in ceremony before the Supreme Constitutional Court, which has been accused of favouring the generals, and delayed the Tahrir rally, Mr. Morsy would have thrown himself open to the charge of compromising with SCAF and behaving opportunistically.

The Muslim Brotherhood’s tactical alacrity seemed to have worked, for the oath taking ceremony before the Supreme Court judges on Saturday has so far not attracted any major controversy. Before Mr. Morsy was sworn in, Farouk Soltan, the leader of the judges’ general assembly, cited the controversial ruling of June 17 that drastically erodes presidential powers, as the basis of the oath. The court’s move is expected to rankle protesters at Tahrir square, where an agitation is already in full swing against SCAF’s power grabbing stratagem.

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