Mohamed Morsi was sworn in as the first freely-elected president
of Egypt Saturday before the country's highest court here
following his victory in the presidential election caused by Hosni
Mubarak's ouster following a civilian uprising.
The former leader of the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood
pledged before Egypt's Supreme Court to defend the country's
republican system, sovereignty, independence and integrity,
safeguard the interests of the Egyptian people and observe the
Constitution and national laws.
After taking oath , Morsi officially started to perform his
functions as the head of state.
He vowed to reclaim presidential
powers stripped from his office by the military council that took
over after Mubarak's overthrow. But by agreeing to take the oath
before the court, rather than before parliament as is customary,
he is bowing to the military's will in an indication that the
contest for power will continue.
"Today is the birthday of the second republic," said one of the
judges in a preamble to the ceremony, which was broadcast live by
Morsi had wanted the ceremony to take place in parliament, in
keeping with the country's interim constitution, but the ruling
military dissolved the Islamist-dominated house earlier this month
after a court order.
He pre-empted the court ceremony by swearing himself in at Tahrir
Square and warning off generals trying to curb his powers.
Morsi praised Muslims and Christians alike in front of crowds that
packed the birthplace of the revolt that overthrew his predecessor
Hosni Mubarak last year.
In a rousing speech, he promised dignity and social justice and
swore to uphold the constitution and "the republican system",
reciting the words of an oath which he will now formally take in
front of the supreme constitutional court.
"I will look after the interests of the people and protect the
independence of the nation and the safety of its territory," he
said and promised to preserve a civil state.
Morsi, who resigned as chairman of the Freedom and Justice Party,
the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, promised to end
torture and discrimination. He also issued several challenges to
the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), Egypt's military
He insisted that "no institution will be above the people,"
critiquing an army which has sought to shield itself from
parliamentary oversight. "You are the source of authority," he
told the crowd.
Much of his speech took a populist
tone. He spoke for several minutes from behind a lectern, then
stepped away to address the crowd more directly.
At one point, he lifted up his suit jacket to show he was not
wearing body armour. "I don't fear my people," he said. "I don't
fear anyone but God."
He also spoke briefly about Egypt's foreign relations, promising
to improve relations with neighbours in Africa and the Middle
East, and to "keep the peace".
"We will never give up the rights of Egyptians abroad," he said.
"Respecting the will of the people is the basis of our foreign
The president-elect tried to reassure several groups worried about
what a Muslim Brotherhood presidency means for Egypt. He made
several mentions of "artists and intellectuals", promising to make
Egypt a cultural and artistic leader.
On the other hand, in a remark sure to worry Western leaders,
Morsi also promised to work to free Omar Abdel Rahman, the
Egyptian cleric currently serving a life sentence in the United
States for planning the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center. His
pledge was most likely a sop to the Salafi groups which have made
Abdel Rahman's release a prominent issue.