CAIRO — Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the former general who led the military takeover here nearly one year ago, was sworn in as president on Sunday, testing the bet that a new strongman can overcome the economic dysfunction and political polarization that bedeviled Egypt’s three-year experiment with democracy.
In an address to dozens of visiting heads of state gathered in a gilded presidential palace, Mr. Sisi pledged to work for security and stability in Egypt and the region.
“It is time for our great people to reap the harvest of their two revolutions,” he said, referring to the 2011 uprising that forced out President Hosni Mubarak and the 2013 protests that preceded the military takeover.
Mr. Sisi, 59, now takes formal responsibility for a nation racked by three years of turmoil, scarred by the new government’s bloody crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood and riven by deepening loathing between rival Islamist and nationalist factions of the population. Without billions of dollars in continuing aid from Persian Gulf monarchies glad to be rid of the Brotherhood, Egypt’s Treasury would empty and its economy collapse.
Mr. Sisi vowed to lead an “inclusive” national journey, “where each party listens to the other with impartiality, where we disagree for the sake of our homeland and not over it, where our differences are enriching and diversifying, and bestowing the spirit of cooperation and love on our shared patriotic labors.”
In a televised speech at a second celebration, however, Mr. Sisi also pointedly ruled out any reconciliation with those who “committed crimes” or “adopted violence as a methodology” — charges understood here as a clear reference to any of the Islamist supporters of the deposed president, Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood.
|Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi was sworn in Sunday as Egypt’s president.|
“There is no place for them in this march forward,” he added. “I say it loud and clear: no cooperation or appeasement for those who resort to violence and those who want to disrupt our movement to the future.”
Mr. Sisi singled out for appreciation one foreign leader, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, Mr. Sisi’s chief international sponsor, whose government is donating several billion dollars to bankroll the military takeover and keep the government afloat.
Mr. Sisi and the departing interim president, Adly Mansour, sitting at two gleaming writing desks, signed a document commemorating what they described as Egypt’s first peaceful transition of power. But Mr. Sisi’s inauguration effectively makes formal his exercise of the power he has already wielded as the nation’s paramount decision maker since he deposed and jailed Mr. Morsi last July 3.
Mr. Mansour, a senior judge, was named interim president by Mr. Sisi himself, so in a sense he is merely returning the chair. Shaking hands, the two men leaned in to kiss each other on the cheek.
Only a few scattered protests across the country were reported on Sunday. Thousands of people in Cairo celebrated late into the night in Tahrir Square, the center of the 2011 uprising, currently surrounded by tanks and barbed wire.
Mr. Sisi, who received more than 95 percent of the votes in a pro forma election last month, now holds direct responsibility for confronting challenges as formidable as any Egypt has faced in the six decades since the overthrow of the British-backed monarchy.
The economy was a sieve of unaffordable fuel subsidies and rampant corruption even before the tumult of the past three years, and it has been devastated by the collapse of its vital tourism business. Since the ouster of Mr. Morsi, the military-backed government has killed more than a thousand of his Islamist supporters during street protests. It has jailed at least 16,000 others, reinforcing distrust and division.
The suppression of both Islamist and liberal dissent has shut down political debate and extinguished hopes for reconciliation. Attacks on soldiers and police officers by militants seeking revenge for the ouster of Mr. Morsi have undermined public security.
The inaugural ceremony on Sunday, however, suggested that Mr. Sisi was in full control of the Egyptian state, with little to fear from legislative, judicial or bureaucratic obstruction of his power — a sharp contrast to Mr. Morsi’s troubled year in the presidential palace.
On the eve of Mr. Morsi’s victory as Egypt’s first democratically elected leader in June 2012, the Supreme Constitutional Court — its members all appointed under Mr. Mubarak — abruptly dissolved the newly elected and Islamist-led Parliament on a procedural technicality. The court ordered the transfer of legislative and budgeting power to Egypt’s top generals, who refused to allow the new president to be sworn in before either a crowd of citizens or an assembly of elected officials, as Mr. Morsi preferred.
Instead, he was forced to stand, teeth clenched, before the judges of the same court as they lectured him about their own importance. And continuous judicial battles, police insubordination and unchecked street protests vexed his administration for the 12 months until the military takeover.
Mr. Sisi, in contrast, was welcomed into the court as a national savior who had already revived Egypt at a time when “some had declared it dead,” as Maher Sami, the court’s deputy chief, declared in a lavish tribute to the president.
The new president can expect sympathy from the constitutional court in part because Mr. Mansour, his close ally, is returning to his previous role as its chief. And in his final days before leaving office, Mr. Mansour issued a law governing parliamentary elections that all but ensures that the new Parliament will be a rubber stamp for Mr. Sisi, excluding the Islamists who had dominated Egypt’s free elections and minimizing the hopes of upstart liberal parties.
Work crews had toiled through the weekend to beautify the area along the Nile facing the court for Mr. Sisi’s arrival on Sunday morning, and two wide red carpets were draped down the court’s long, neoclassical steps. (Mr. Sisi, in a blue suit and sunglasses, entered by a side door.)
In his tribute before he administered the oath, Judge Sami portrayed Mr. Sisi as both heir and redeemer of the original 2011 revolt. The initial uprising against “tyranny and corruption” had fallen “captive” to the Muslim Brotherhood — the Islamist group whose party had won the most votes in parliamentary and presidential elections — and the Brotherhood had “pounced on it, decimated it and ripped it to bloody shreds just like they ripped apart the body of the whole state, just like they ripped apart the body of the entire homeland,” Judge Sami said.
Although the term “revolution” typically refers to the overturning of one legal order to establish another, Judge Sami argued that Egypt’s revolution had violated the country’s constitutional traditions, and thus “a revolution against the revolution” had become necessary.
That, he said, was what happened last summer. “It was not a military coup,” he said. “It was the revolution of a people.”
Addressing Mr. Sisi as a “revolutionary soldier, Egypt’s devout son,” Judge Sami told him, “In spite of the dangers and perils of this difficult choice, you made it for the sake of rescuing Egypt.” Grateful Egyptians, the judge said, saw in Mr. Sisi “a bright tomorrow and a new birth.”
Mayy El Sheikh and May Kamel contributed reporting.
Courtesy:The New York Times