Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding
News, June 2014
Abdul Fattah Al-Sisi Inaugurated as President of Egypt,
a Year After Overthrowing Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood
June 8, 2014
Egypt's Sisi sworn in as president
Patrick Kingsley in Cairo
theguardian.com, Sunday 8 June 2014, 04.44 EDT
Sisi replaces the senior judge, Adly Mansour, whom Sisi himself appointed as interim president following Morsi's arrest last July, and whose term in office was almost as long as Morsi's.
Sisi's inauguration – marked by an impromptu public holiday – was attended by a number of Middle Eastern and African leaders, as well as the almost exclusively male members of Egypt's aging political elite. A small crowd of well-wishers also gathered outside Cairo's Nile-side constitutional court, where the inauguration took place, and where Morsi was himself sworn in under two years ago.
But the event was largely avoided by western governments, who have criticised Egypt's rights record in the 11 months since Morsi's overthrow, a period that has seen the largest spike in state-led violence in Egypt's recent history.
After a brief ceremony, Sisi became president with the words: "I swear by God to protect the republican system, to respect the constitution and the law, to safeguard the people's interests, and to preserve the independence of the nation and the unity of its lands."
His oath followed a laudation by the deputy head of the constitutional court, Maher Sami, in which Sami described Sisi as a "rebel soldier", and strived to present him as a revolutionary hero rather than as the mastermind of a controversial coup.
Link to video: Who is Abdel Fatah al-Sisi?
Sami said Sisi's election marked the reawakening of Egypt following three years of turmoil, and that his rise to power was not the product of "a military coup, but a revolution of the people, who were sick of all the troubles that had passed, and all the injustice that they had to face … The army embraced the people and listened to the heartbeats of the Egyptians who were burning with anger."
Earlier in the morning, the front page of a state-run newspaper, al-Akhbar, described Sisi as Egypt's "first patriotic elected president". It was a clear dig at Morsi, who was Egypt's first freely elected president, but whose critics said governed only in the interests of his Muslim Brotherhood.
Sisi, a career soldier, won over 96% of the vote in a presidential ballot to succeed Morsi last week. But his victory was tarnished by boycotts by a number of credible challengers, who said it would be impossible to campaign against him amid a crackdown on dissent, and a series of last-minute state-led attempts to increase turnout.
Sisi inherits a country beset by many of the same challenges that brought down his predecessors Morsi and Hosni Mubarak – problems that analysts warn may also cause his own popularity to wane quickly.
Additional reporting by Manu Abdo
Egypt's Sisi takes office to cool reception from West
By Yasmine Saleh and Maggie Fick
CAIRO Sun Jun 8, 2014 5:22pm EDT
Abdel Fattah al-Sisi promised to rule Egypt in an inclusive manner after he was sworn in as president on Sunday but gave no indication he would reconcile with the Muslim Brotherhood movement he removed from power nearly a year ago.
In an inauguration ceremony with low-key attendance by Western allies concerned by a crackdown on dissent, the former army chief called for hard work and the development of freedom "in a responsible framework away from chaos".
Last month's election, which officials said Sisi won with 97 percent of the vote, followed three years of upheaval since a popular uprising ended 30 years of rule by former air force commander Hosni Mubarak.
Security in Cairo was extra tight, with armoured personnel carriers and tanks positioned in strategic locations. Sisi said combating terrorism would be his top priority for the time being, a reference to Islamist foes he describes as a threat to national security.
"As for those who shed the blood of the innocents, there will be no place for them in this path," Sisi said in his first speech to the nation.
"And I say it loud and clear, there will be no soft stand with anyone who resorts to violence or whoever wants to delay our march towards the future that we want for our children."
Sisi toppled President Mohamed Mursi of the Brotherhood last July after mass protests against his rule.
Security forces then killed hundreds of Brotherhood supporters in the streets and jailed thousands of others in a crackdown that polarised the biggest Arab state, which controls the strategic Suez Canal and has a peace treaty with Israel.
In an earlier speech to foreign dignitaries, Sisi called for "an inclusive national march" in an apparent bid to heal political divisions and put an end to street protests that have hammered the economy.
Critics fear Sisi will become yet another authoritarian leader who will preserve the interests of the military and the Mubarak-era establishment, crushing the hopes of democracy.
Near Tahrir Square, the symbolic heart of the revolt against Mubarak where protesters now rarely tread, young men sold t-shirts with the image of Sisi in his trademark dark sunglasses.
Commentators on state and private media heaped praise on him, turning a blind eye to what human rights groups say are widespread abuses, in the hope that he can deliver stability and rescue state finances.
Many Egyptians share that hope, but they have limited patience, staging street demonstrations that toppled two leaders in the past three years, and the election turnout of just 47 percent shows Sisi is not as popular as when he toppled Mursi.
"Sisi has to do something in his first 100 days, people will watch closely and there might be another revolution. That's what people are like in this country," said theology student Israa Youssef, 21.
Western countries, who hoped the overthrow of Mubarak in 2011 would usher in a new era of democracy, have watched Egypt's political transition stumble. Mursi was the country's first freely elected president, but his year in power was tarnished by accusations that he usurped power, imposed the Brotherhood's views on Islam and mismanaged the economy, allegations he denied.
Mursi's ouster was applauded by Egypt's Gulf Arab allies, who were alarmed by the rise of the Brotherhood, the international standard-bearer of mainstream Sunni political Islam.
The 86-year-old movement with branches in many countries, is seen as a threat to Gulf dynasties. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait extended a lifeline exceeding $12 billion in cash and petroleum products to help Egypt stave off economic collapse after Sisi appeared on television and announced that the Brotherhood was finished. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia urged Egyptians this week to back Sisi and said they should disown "the strange chaos" of the Arab uprisings. Kuwait's Emir, the King of Bahrain, the Crown Princes of Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi are attending Sisi's inauguration, according to a list provided by the Egyptian presidency.
In contrast, the United States only sent a senior advisor to Secretary of State John Kerry and most European countries only planned to send ambassadors.
"Just having ambassadors shows very clearly that while the governments are recognising the new transfer of power they are certainly not doing so with a huge amount of enthusiasm," said H.A. Hellyer, non-resident fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington.
Diplomatic manoeuvring's pale as a problem for Sisi compared with an urgent need to fix state finances and tackle an Islamist insurgency to lure back tourists and investors.
The economy is suffering from corruption, bureaucracy and a widening budget deficit aggravated by fuel subsidies that cost nearly $19 billion a year. Officials forecast economic growth at just 3.2 percent in the fiscal year that begins July 1, well below levels needed to create enough jobs for a rapidly growing population and ease widespread poverty.
Child nursery employee Kamal Mahmoud, 25, said he was optimistic but would give Sisi only two years to bring change.
If he doesn't succeed "he has no right to hold that position and he should join the others sitting in prison", he said.
Sisi has no strong political opponents, with the Brotherhood forced underground.
Parliamentary elections are expected later this year, but government opponents have been crushed and political parties weakened. Only one other candidate contested the presidential election. The military is unlikely to turn against Sisi unless mass street protests erupt. "Sisi was the best option we had, so even if I still have worries about his stand on freedoms and even if he lets Mubarak people come back, he is still the best candidate for now," said Mohamed Ahmed, an employee in a private firm. The world knew little of Sisi before he appeared on television on July 3 to announce the removal of Mursi after vast crowds demanded he resign, and to promise democracy. Sisi had kept a low profile as Mubarak's head of military intelligence. That approach dates back to his childhood in the run-down Cairo neighbourhood of Gamaliya.
While most boys played along alleys, Sisi kept to himself, focusing on his studies, working in his father's shop after school and weightlifting, people who knew him say.
But Sisi will need more than iron discipline to come up with solutions for Egyptians like Fathi Bayoumi, 60, who had hoped the 2011 revolt would ease hardships in his slum, where there are puddles of open sewage.
“He will do his best but it is not in his hands because the country has fallen. He does not have a magic wand… May God be with him," said Bayoumi.
Poverty is just one of the challenges facing Sisi. He is likely to face the same protracted challenge from Islamists as his predecessors. The Brotherhood has been declared a terrorist group and weakened but it has survived repression before.
"Sisi does not enjoy legitimacy or support from the people," said Mursi supporter Wael Kamel, a physician who lives in the town of Fayoum, south of Cairo. "The election was a farce."
Radical Islamist groups, who have threatened to bomb their way into power, have proven resilient despite army offensives. Militants based in the Sinai Peninsula have stepped up attacks on police and soldiers since Mursi's ouster, killing hundreds. Other militants operating along the border with chaotic Libya are now seen by Sisi as a major threat.
(Reporting by Cairo bureau; writing by Michael Georgy; editing by Philippa Fletcher and Anna Willard)
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