Jul 01 2012
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WSJ: Morsi Takes Office, Praises Egyptian Military
Sunday, Jul 01, 2012
--Mohammed Morsi became Egypt's first freely elected president Saturday
--He swore the presidential oath in front of Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court
--The conciliatory language of his first presidential address settles the ground just before what is likely to be a fierce battle over political power with the nation's military
By Matt Bradley
Mr. Morsi, a 60-year-old former leader in the powerful Muslim Brotherhood, swore the presidential oath in front of Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court Saturday morning before delivering his first address as president in front of an audience of foreign and Egyptian dignitaries at Cairo University.
(This story and related background material will be available on The Wall Street Journal website, WSJ.com.)
In three separate speeches, Mr. Morsi lavished praise on a military leadership and justice system that once swore loyalty to Mr. Mubarak and recently have acted to rein in Mr. Morsi's authority even before he took office.
"The SCAF have fulfilled their promises and the oath that they made, to not be an alternative to popular will," Mr. Morsi said before an audience at Cairo University that included the ruling generals, referring to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. "The great Egyptian army can now return to its role, protecting the borders of our nation."
The new president's conciliatory language settles the ground just before what is likely to be a fierce battle over political power.
The judiciary and the military are now Mr. Morsi's uneasy partners, with each vying for authority in an ill-defined governance system that has withstood constant change and manipulation until the eve of Mr. Morsi assuming office.
As polls closed early last week, the military announced a constitutional declaration that sharply curbed the incoming president's political power.
Saturday's ceremonies recalled the Brotherhood's tormented rise to power throughout its 84-year history.
Mr. Morsi's decision to take the oath of office at the high court defied protesters' demands that he swear in front of the Islamist-majority parliament that the same court ruled to dissolve more than two weeks ago.
The new president parried activists' objections by taking the same oath Friday in front of throngs of supporters in Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the uprising that felled Mr. Mubarak in February 2011.
Yet in the hours before the ceremony, Mr. Morsi tried in vain to prevent the swearing-in from being carried live on television, Al Shorouq, an Egyptian daily newspaper, reported.
"I will take care to ensure that this institution remains independent, strong, effective, untainted, unaffected by outside factors," Mr. Morsi told the justices. "It is a free institution, on free land, with a free people."
Following the ceremony at the high court that confirmed him as president, Mr. Morsi rode in a presidential motorcade to Cairo University, his alma mater, for his first public address as president.
The university long has been a battleground between student activists, including student members of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the fallen former regime.
For generations, intelligence officials vetted staff appointments, rigged student-union elections and suppressed antiregime protests.
In his speech, Mr. Morsi made a direct appeal to the Gulf states that supported Mr. Mubarak and were deeply vexed by Mr. Morsi's victory. The oil-rich Arab monarchies are concerned that the rise of Islamists in Egypt will empower their own radical opposition movements.
"We do not export revolution, we do not interfere in the affairs of anyone, the affairs of other people or nations," Mr. Morsi said. "But at the same time, it isn't anyone's right to interfere in our affairs."
Yet the new president claimed kinship with the continuing uprisings in Syria and promised to stand with the Palestinians in their struggle for statehood until they "get their full rights."
The new president then traveled to Hike Step Army Base, a sprawling military installation in the desert outside Cairo, for a color-guard ceremony that marked the military's formal yielding of its presidential powers to Mr. Morsi.
In 2008, hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood members faced military show trials at the same facility. Khairat Al Shater, the Brotherhood's deputy guide, chief financier and Mr. Morsi's mentor in the organization, was sentenced to seven years in prison.
The ruling generals used Saturday's final ceremony to justify their often chaotic and violent transitional rule.
An extended, highly detailed documentary-video presentation showcased each step in the military's support for Egypt's revolution and providing security during a yearlong power vacuum. For the first time, the military revealed that more than 700 soldiers had been killed or injured during the violent 16-month transition.
Amid a ceremonial helicopter flyover and a tank cannon salute, the Egyptian public watched in rapture as acting head of state Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi twice saluted Mr. Morsi, then introduced him as Egypt's new leader.
"We stood by the people in a very difficult transition phase and will continue to stand by its new president, Mohammed Morsi," he said. "We fulfilled our promise and now we have an elected president that reflects the will of the people."
In his speech, Mr. Morsi gave a nod to the significance of a moment many Egyptians had doubted would ever arrive.
"Protocol does not allow me to return this salute," the new president said. "But I salute you in my heart."
--Tamer El-Ghobashy contributed to this article.
Write to Matt Bradley at email@example.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
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