Morsi’s multiple oaths
BY SARAH EL SIRGANY and AMIRA SALAH-AHMED
Cairo: In his first speech as Egypt’s president, Mohamed Morsi said in a mildly confrontational tone, that the institutions elected by the people will resume their role, and that the “glorious” armed forces will go back to fulfilling their duty to protect the nation and its borders.
The message was not lost on the crowd in attendance at the grand hall of Cairo University, which included head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, seated in the front row along with Military Chief of Staff Sami Anan, Speaker of the now dissolved People’s Assembly Saad El-Katatny, PM of the caretaker government Kamal El-Ganzoury, as well as Nobel laureates Mohamed ElBaradei and Ahmed Zuweil.
“Egyptians elected a parliament which elected a constituent assembly that will reflect national consensus and a democratic state,” he said.
The upper and lower houses of parliament were effectively dissolved by a supreme court ruling in mid-June, to the dismay of political parties and then president-elect Morsi, who had initially vowed to take the oath before parliament. But avoiding a political battle to fulfill this promise, Morsi conceded to being sworn in at the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC).
However, a day before doing so, he mitigated the embarrassment of reneging on this promise by swearing himself in amid throngs of supporters in Tahrir Square.
Morsi’s critics say that accepting to take the oath before the SCC judges appointed by ousted president Hosni Mubarak is a de facto recognition of the legitimacy of the constitutional addendum issued by the ruling military council on the eve of the election results, as well as an acceptance of the SCC’s ruling to dissolve parliament.
The June 17 addendum stipulates that the president would take the oath at the SCC if there is no parliament.
Morsi had repeatedly rejected both and his supporters have been camped out in Tahrir in protest.
Other observers believe that Morsi’s decision to take the oath halfway through an impassioned speech in Tahrir reduced the SCC oath-taking to a mere procedure. His supporters hailed his choice to prioritize citizens over unelected officials.
Speculations are rife about a possible deal between SCAF and Morsi fuelled by a delay in the SCC which aired two hours after its scheduled time. First, state TV had said that it was not to be aired live. Reuters had quoted army officers saying Tantawi “would not let himself be filmed saluting Morsi.”
But later state TV showed a taut Morsi sitting at the center of an oval-shaped hall, with the Chief Justice of the SCC Farouk Sultan to his right.
“It’s the birth of the second Egyptian republic,” Justice Maher Sami said in a preamble to the oath-taking.
“I respect the judicial and legislative authorities and I will play my role to preserve their independence,” Morsi said as he thanked the judges after swearing to preserve the state and respect the law and the constitution.
Morsi took the oath for the third time about 90 minutes later at Cairo University, with MPs in attendance.
In his lengthy first presidential speech, Morsi repeatedly stressed that Egypt supports the people of Palestine in their right to self-determination. He then made a stern mention of Syria, saying that “the bloodshed must stop.”
“The old regime dwarfed Egypt’s regional and international role,” said Morsi, vowing to regain Egypt’s status in the Arab and African region, highlighting the importance of regional integration on the economic and security fronts.
“Egypt will not export its revolution. We will not interfere in any country’s affairs and will not accept interference [in ours],” he said, reiterating that Egypt sends a message a peace to the rest of the world and is not in conflict with any other nation.
“I vow to protect this country and its borders with the help of the glorious armed forces, the nation’s shield and sword,” Morsi said, before thanking the army for securing the elections and for its efforts in the past year.
In his speech, Morsi stressed the importance of scientific research as the foundation of development, as well as promoting investments in all sectors and helping the tourism sector recover.
In Tahrir a day earlier, a more relaxed Morsi emphasized that Egyptians, not institutions, are the source of authority and legitimacy. It was the climax of his speech, as he left the podium and the microphone to the panic of his bodyguards. He opened his jacket saying he wasn’t wearing a bulletproof vest, a jab at his ousted predecessor who reportedly never left home without one in his last years in office.
Morsi was in Tahrir to connect with his supporters, who packed the iconic square or were glued to TV screens. His words showed that he listened attentively to criticism of his earlier speech by not using phrases he used frequently before, and mentioning sectors of society he had overlooked in his June 24 speech. He promised to stay true to the revolution and its goals.
His speech evoked comparisons with former post-January 25 Prime Minister Essam Sharaf’s speech in March 2011. Clearly aware of the possibility of such an unflattering comparison with a man deemed a puppet in the hands of the power-wielding generals, Morsi stressed that he now has the authority to make changes and that he was intent on using it.
He promised to look into the case of Omar Abdel-Rahman, the “blind sheikh” serving a life sentence on terrorism charges in the US, triggering major criticism; but he also pledged to look into the cases of thousands of Egyptian civilians subjected to military tribunals.
“Our strength is in our unity,” Morsi said at the end of his Friday speech, pushing guards aside in a bid to prove that nothing stands between him and his voters.
“We now embark on a new era in Egypt after turning over an ugly page in this country’s history,” he said at his Cairo University speech, while saluting the martyrs who lost their lives during the revolution and promising to retrieve their rights.
Muslims and Christians will work together “for a prosperous Egypt to achieve liberty, [social] justice and dignity,” Morsi added. “I will never betray my country and my countrymen.”