The Times West Virginian

World News

July 1, 2012

Egypt’s new president Morsi begins struggle for power

CAIRO — Islamist Mohammed Morsi became Egypt’s first freely elected president on Saturday, launching his four-year term with a potentially dangerous quest to wrest back from the military the full authority of his office.

The outcome of the impending battle between Egypt’s first civilian president and its powerful generals will redraw the country’s political landscape after 60 years of de facto military rule.

If Morsi succeeds, the Muslim Brotherhood will likely be emboldened to press ahead with realizing the longtime goal of making Egypt an Islamic state. Otherwise the military — which has been reluctant to give up the power it assumed after Hosni Mubarak’s ouster — will continue its stranglehold on the country for years, maybe decades, to come.

For Egypt’s estimated 82 million people, the prospect of a continuing battle between the military and the Brotherhood, the country’s largest political group, will only prolong the political instability that has rocked their nation since  Mubarak’s ouster last year. Egyptians have seen the initial euphoria following the revolution turn into a wave of pessimism amid a declining economy, rising crime and a seemingly endless wave of protests, strikes and sit-ins.

The yearning for stability was expressed by two prominent figures.

Nobel Peace Laureate Mohamed ElBaradei, also Egypt’s top pro-democracy advocate, tweeted that it was time to resolve the thorny issues of the new constitution, the president’s powers and legislation. “Now, the time for building has come, to achieve the revolution’s goals,” he said.

Gamal Eid, a well-known rights lawyer and activist, saw in Morsi’s inauguration the chance for someone in power to be held accountable. “Now the ball is in the president’s court after he became the first elected president of Egypt. Now we can hold him accountable either with or without authorities.”

Both sides — Morsi and the military — made a show of unity during the inauguration ceremonies that began with the 60-year-old U.S.-trained engineer being sworn in at the Supreme Constitutional Court, then making an address a few hours later at Cairo University as the ruling generals applauded politely.

Morsi repeated his oath of office in the university’s gigantic lecture hall and lavishly praised the military council, which had promised to hand over power to a civilian government by July 1 but pushed through a series of decrees this month that stripped the president of significant powers before doing so.

The decrees gave the military legislative authority after the parliament was dissolved by court order as well as control over the process of drafting a permanent constitution. It also retained its influence on key domestic and foreign policy issues.

“The armed forces are the shield and sword of the nation,” Morsi told an audience of several thousand people, including many members of the disbanded Islamist-dominated parliament.

“I pledge before God that I will safeguard that institution, soldiers and commanders, raise its prestige and support it with all the powers available to me so it can be stronger,” he added.

But Morsi later appeared to urge the military to hand over all powers to his elected administration.

“The (ruling) Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has honored its promise not to be a substitute for the popular will and the elected institutions will now return to carry out their duties as the glorious Egyptian army returns to being devoted to its mission of defending the nation’s borders and security,” he said.

Military ruler Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi’s arrival at the hall was greeted by conflicting chants of “the army and the people are one hand” and “down with military rule.” He and Gen. Sami Anan, the powerful chief of staff, showed no emotion during Morsi’s address, but did occasionally clap.

The military already has won the first round, forcing Morsi to take his official oath of office before the court because there is no parliament, the traditional venue for inaugurations.

The Supreme Constitutional Court is packed with judges appointed by Mubarak before his ouster and it is the same tribunal that ruled two weeks ago that a third of parliament’s members were elected illegally. Armed with that verdict, the military disbanded the chamber.

The Brotherhood has questioned the legality of the military’s decree and called for the reinstatement of the legislature in which it controlled just under half the seats. Some of the group’s leaders wanted Morsi to be sworn in before members of the dissolved legislature, but the idea was shelved over fears it could unleash a crackdown by the military.

Instead Morsi read an informal oath of office during a rousing speech before tens of thousands of supporters Friday in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the revolution.

A court official who was present at Saturday’s swear-in ceremony said Morsi insisted that the proceedings not be shown live on television, preferring that they be recorded and aired after his university address. The judges refused, warning him of legal repercussions. He eventually backed down but not before the ceremony was delayed by nearly two hours.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject, but Tahani el-Gebaly, one of the court’s 18 judges, made similar comments to the state Al-Ahram daily newspaper.

Betraying his anger, Morsi was grim-faced throughout the ceremony, avoiding eye contact with the black-robed judges in the wood-paneled chamber. In a dark blue suit and red tie, he looked straight at the camera rather than the court’s chief judge, Farouq Sultan, as he read the oath.

“We aspire to a better tomorrow, a new Egypt and a second republic,” Morsi said in a brief address to the judges. The courthouse, whose court is a Nile-side structure built to resemble an ancient Egyptian temple, is next door to the military hospital where Mubarak is being held after his transfer from a prison hospital.

The ousted leader is serving a life sentence for failing to prevent the killing of protesters during the uprising that toppled his regime last year.

“Today, the Egyptian people laid the foundation of a new life — absolute freedom, a genuine democracy and stability,” said Morsi after the court ceremony.

Curiously, Morsi made no mention of the Brotherhood’s goal of bringing Egypt more in alignment with Islamic teachings in three speeches he delivered on Saturday, with his citation of a handful of Quranic verses the only sign of his political orientation.

He also did not raise the case of the Egyptian-born blind sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, who is jailed in the U.S. for plotting to blow up New York City landmarks and assassinate Mubarak.

Morsi vowed to work for his release, along with political detainees in Egypt, in Friday’s speech at Tahrir Square, but it was unclear if he planned a serious appeal or was responding to populist pressure after seeing a group of protesters with posters of the detainees.

Later at a military ceremony held at a base east of Cairo, Tantawi and Anan saluted Morsi as he arrived and awarded him the “shield of the Armed Forces” — the Egyptian military’s highest honor. Morsi also received a 21-gun salute before he and Tantawi addressed the ceremony.

The location of the ceremonies was loaded with symbolism for the Brotherhood, whose members were jailed and suppressed for decades, including during Mubarak’s secular rule.

Cairo University was established in 1908 as Egypt’s first seat of secular learning but became a stronghold of Islamist student groups in the 1970s. Many of their leaders have gone on to become today’s stalwarts of the Brotherhood, Morsi included.

The base, also known as Huckstep camp, houses a military court in which Brotherhood leaders were tried during the Mubarak years.

Hundreds of soldiers and policemen guarded the Supreme Constitutional Court building as Morsi arrived in a small motorcade. Only several hundred supporters gathered outside the court to cheer the new president and, in a departure from the presidential pomp of the Mubarak era, traffic was only briefly halted to allow his motorcade through on the usually busy road linking the city center to southern suburbs.

In another sign of the change of style, Morsi began his address at Cairo University with an apology to students whose final exams had to be postponed to allow the ceremony to be held at the main campus.

Text Only
World News
  • Gaza sides agree to lull; truce stalled

    Israel-Hamas fighting looked headed for escalation after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry failed Friday to broker a weeklong truce as a first step toward a broader deal and Israel’s defense minister warned Israel might soon expand its Gaza ground operation “significantly.”

    July 26, 2014

  • U.S.: Russia firing across border into Ukraine

    Russia is launching artillery attacks from its soil on Ukrainian troops and preparing to move heavier weaponry across the border, the U.S. and Ukraine charged Friday in what appeared to be an ominous escalation of the crisis.
    Russia accused Washington of lying and charged Ukraine with firing across the border on a Russian village. It also toughened its economic measures against Ukraine by banning dairy imports.

    July 26, 2014

  • U.N. school in Gaza in cross-fire; 15 killed

    A U.N. school in Gaza crowded with hundreds of Palestinians seeking refuge from fierce fighting came under fire Thursday, killing at least 15 civilians and leaving a sad tableau of blood-spattered pillows, blankets and children’s clothing scattered in the courtyard.

    July 25, 2014

  • Jet with 116 on board crashes in Mali

    An Air Algerie jetliner carrying 116 people crashed Thursday in a rainstorm over restive Mali, and its wreckage was found near the border of neighboring Burkina Faso — the third major international aviation disaster in a week.

    July 25, 2014

  • Two more planes with Ukraine bodies arrive in Netherlands

    Two more military aircraft carrying remains of victims from the Malaysian plane disaster arrived in the Netherlands on Thursday, while Australian and Dutch diplomats joined to promote a plan for a U.N. team to secure the crash site which has been controlled by pro-Russian rebels.

    July 25, 2014

  • Bodies of Malaysian jet victims solemnly returned to Dutch soil

    Victims of the Malaysian jetliner shot down over Ukraine returned at last Wednesday to Dutch soil in 40 wooden coffins, solemnly and gently carried to 40 identical hearses, flags at half-staff flapping in the wind.

    July 24, 2014

  • 48 dead in Taiwan plane crash

    Family members of victims of a plane crash were flying to the small Taiwanese island on Thursday where the plane had unsuccessfully attempted to land in stormy weather, killing 48. There were 10 survivors, and authorities were searching for one person who might have been in a wrecked house on the ground.

    July 24, 2014

  • Monitors try to secure Ukraine plane crash site

    International monitors moved gingerly Saturday through fields reeking of the decomposing corpses that fell from a Malaysian airliner shot down over rebel-held eastern Ukraine, trying to secure the sprawling site in hopes that a credible investigation can be conducted.
    But before inspectors ever reach the scene, doubts arose about whether evidence was being compromised.

    July 20, 2014

  • Without radar, missile may not have identified jet

    If Ukrainian rebels shot down the Malaysian jetliner, killing 298 people, it may have been because they didn’t have the right systems in place to distinguish between military and civilian aircraft, experts said Saturday.
    American officials said Friday that they believe the Boeing 777 was brought down by an SA-11 missile fired from an area of eastern Ukraine controlled by pro-Russian separatists.

    July 20, 2014

  • U.S.: Can’t rule out Russian role in plane downing

    U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power told an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Friday that the United States cannot rule out that Russia helped in the launch of the surface-to-air missile that shot down a Malaysia Airlines jet over eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board.

    July 19, 2014

Featured Ads
NDN Editor's Picks
House Ads