Monday 22 December 2014

El-Sissi: Time to build stability

Published 08/06/2014 | 11:47

The newly sworn-in President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi takes his oath at the Supreme Constitutional Court in Cairo, Egypt (Middle East State News Agency/AP)
The newly sworn-in President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi takes his oath at the Supreme Constitutional Court in Cairo, Egypt (Middle East State News Agency/AP)
Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi gets out of a military helicopter as he arrives at the Supreme Constitutional Court to take the oath of office in Cairo, Egypt (AP)
Supporters of Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi chant slogans in front of the Supreme Constitutional Court, in Cairo, Egypt (AP)

Egypt's new president has told Egyptians it is time to build a more stable future and called on them to work hard so that their rights and freedoms may grow.

Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, a former military chief who ousted Egypt's first freely elected leader last July, was addressing a ceremony held at a presidential palace in Cairo hours after he was sworn in by the Supreme Constitutional Court.

Mr el-Sissi also thanked the outgoing interim president, judge Adly Mansour.

Both men later signed the "handover of power document" in the presence of dozens of local and foreign dignitaries.

"Let us differ for the sake of our nation and not over it, and in a unifying national march in which every party listens to the other," Mr el-Sissi said.

"The presidency of Egypt is a great honour and a huge responsibility," Mr el-Sissi told local and foreign dignitaries gathered at an opulent Cairo palace hours after his swearing-in ceremony.

Under his rule, he said, Egypt will work for regional security and stability.

"It is time for us to build a future that is more stable and pen a new reality for the future of this nation," he said.

Hard work, something that he has repeatedly called for in recent weeks, will allow Egyptians to "pay attention to rights and freedoms (to) deepen and develop them," he said.

El-Sissi, 59, earlier took the oath of office before the Supreme Constitutional Court at the tribunal's Nile-side headquarters in a suburb south of Cairo, the same venue where Mohammed Morsi , now on trial for charges that carry the death penalty, was sworn in two years ago.

The building, designed to look like an ancient Egyptian temple, is a short distance away from a military hospital where longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak, toppled by the 2011 uprising, is being held. Forced out of office after 29 years in power, Mr Mubarak was convicted last month on graft charges and sentenced to three years in prison. He is also being retried over the killing of protesters during the 18-day revolt.

Sunday was declared a national holiday for el-Sissi's inauguration and police and troops deployed throughout Cairo. The entire Cabinet, as well as Mr el-Sissi's wife and children, attended the swearing-in ceremony.

Outgoing interim president Adly Mansour, installed by Mr el-Sissi after the overthrow, will return to his post as the chief justice of the Supreme Constitutional Court.

Mr el-Sissi is Egypt's eighth president since the overthrow of the monarchy in 1953, the year after a military coup. With the exception of Mr Morsi and two civilians who served in an interim capacity, all of Egypt's presidents have come from the armed forces.

A 21-gun salute greeted Mr el-Sissi as he arrived at the Ittiahdiya presidential palace in Cairo's upscale district of Heliopolis after being sworn in. He welcomed dozens of local and foreign dignitaries, including the kings of Jordan and Bahrain, the emir of Kuwait and the crown princes of Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi.

Mr el-Sissi won a landslide victory in presidential elections held last month, receiving nearly 97% of the vote, with a turnout of 47.45%. The three-day election was declared free of fraud but was tainted by the extraordinary means used by authorities to get the vote out, including a threat to fine those who stayed home, a one-day voting extension, and allowing free rides on trains and buses to encourage voters to travel to their home districts to cast their ballots.

It was also held against a backdrop of vastly curbed freedoms in the 11 months since Mr Morsi's ouster and a massive crackdown on supporters of his Muslim Brotherhood, hundreds of whom have been killed in clashes with security forces. Mr Morsi's supporters boycotted the vote and have also called for massive demonstrations to mark Mr Morsi's July 3 ouster, though their ranks have thinned considerably.

Mr Morsi's Islamist backers - thousands of whom have been jailed since his ouster - accuse Mr el-Sissi of crushing Egypt's infant democracy. Many of the secular youths behind the 2011 uprising say he has revived Mr Mubarak's police state, pointing to a law passed last year that restricts protests as well as the jailing of a number of well-known activists.

In interviews, Mr el-Sissi made it clear that his priorities are security and the economy, maintaining that free speech must take a back seat while he fights Islamic militants and works to revive the ailing economy.

But while many support Mr el-Sissi's fight against the militancy, his plans for the economy have generated less enthusiasm. He has advocated heavy government involvement in the economy, with state-sponsored mega-projects to create jobs and the government setting prices for some goods. At the same time, he has vowed to be business-friendly and encourage investment.

Press Association

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