Newly elected President Mohammed Mursi paid tribute on Friday to the people of Egypt, Muslims and Christians alike, before a huge crowd at Cairo’s Tahrir Square, birthplace of the revolt that overthrew Hosni Mubarak.
“There is no power above people power,” Mursi declared to wild cheers from the crowd.
Mursi, who won a run-off election earlier this month against Mubarak’s last premier, was received with applause by the tens of thousands of people gathered in the square.
He paid tribute to “the square of the revolution, the square of freedom,” addressing “the free world, Arabs, Muslims... the people of Egypt, brothers and sisters... Muslims of Egypt, Christians of Egypt.”
Mursi symbolically swore himself in before the crowd on the eve of his official swearing in as Egypt’s first democratically elected civilian president.
Preparations for the speech
Earlier in the day, crowds headed to Tahrir Square in preparation for Mursi's speech on the eve of his swearing-in as Egypt’s first civilian president.
Hundreds gathered from mid-morning braving the searing heat, hours before Mursi was expected to arrive in the huge central plaza that was the epicenter of the protest movement that ousted veteran strongman Hosni Mubarak last year.
Chants against the ruling military which took over on Mubarak’s overthrow rang out from among the crowd.
Mursi spokesman Yasser Ali had told state MENA news agency the president-elect would “make a speech to the great Egyptian people” in which he would speak about “efforts to launch his program for the rebirth of Egypt.”
The Muslim Brotherhood, from which Mursi resigned after winning the presidency, had called for a huge demonstration in Tahrir, under the slogan: “Day of the transfer of power.”
The presidency announced late on Thursday that Mursi would be sworn in Saturday before the Supreme Constitutional Court, after differences with the army over the transfer of power to the nation’s first civilian president.
Mursi “will go at 11:00 am (0900 GMT) Saturday to the Constitutional Court to take the oath before the Court’s general assembly”, said a statement released by MENA.
Traditionally the president takes the oath in parliament, but Egypt’s top court has ordered the disbanding of the Islamist-dominated legislature.
But by doing so Mursi would be acknowledging the court’s decision to dissolve parliament.
The Muslim Brotherhood, which fielded Mursi as a candidate in the presidential polls, insists that the oath be taken before parliament.
The Brotherhood has called for a huge demonstration on Friday in Cairo’s iconic Tahrir Square under the slogan: “Day of the transfer of power.”
Mursi, meanwhile, was “working on reaching some compromises on various issues so that all the parties are able to work together,” his spokesman has also said.
Egypt’s first civilian president, and its first elected leader since an uprising ousted president Hosni Mubarak in February 2011, still has to contend with the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.
Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, 76, who served as Mubarak’s defense minister for two decades, will keep that post in Mursi’s future cabinet, an army council member said on Wednesday night.
“The government will have a defense minister who is head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces,” Major-General Mohammed Assar said on private CBC television.
Asked by the talk show host if this meant Tantawi would keep his defense portfolio, Assar said: “Exactly. What is wrong with that? He is the head of the SCAF, the defense minister and the commander of the armed forces.”
Assar insisted that Mursi, a 60-year-old U.S.-trained engineer, would have full presidential prerogatives, even as he outlined curbs on his right to decide on war or peace.
“The president is the head of state with full powers. The president makes a decision to go to war in consultation with the military rulers,” Assar said, adding that this was normal practice in other countries, including the United States.
The SCAF, which took control after Mubarak resigned, will retain broad powers even after it formally transfers control to Mursi at the end of June.
The military reserves the right to appoint a new constituent assembly should the one elected by parliament be disbanded by a court decision expected on Sept. 1.
But the Brotherhood insists that only parliament can appoint the assembly.