Egypt’s new president begins struggle for power

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The military already has won the first round, forcing Morsi to take his official oath of office before the court because there is no parliament, the traditional venue for inaugurations.

The Supreme Constitutional Court is packed with judges appointed by Mubarak before his ouster and it is the same tribunal that ruled two weeks ago that a third of parliament’s members were elected illegally. Armed with that verdict, the military disbanded the chamber.

The Brotherhood has questioned the legality of the military’s decree and called for the reinstatement of the legislature in which it controlled just under half the seats. Some of the group’s leaders wanted Morsi to be sworn in before members of the dissolved legislature, but the idea was shelved over fears it could unleash a crackdown by the military.

Instead Morsi read an informal oath of office during a rousing speech before tens of thousands of supporters Friday in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the revolution.

A court official who was present at Saturday’s swear-in ceremony said Morsi insisted that the proceedings not be shown live on television, preferring that they be recorded and aired after his university address. The judges refused, warning him of legal repercussions. He eventually backed down but not before the ceremony was delayed by nearly two hours.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject, but Tahani el-Gebaly, one of the court’s 18 judges, made similar comments to the state Al-Ahram daily newspaper.

Betraying his anger, Morsi was grim-faced throughout the ceremony, avoiding eye contact with the black-robed judges in the wood-paneled chamber. In a dark blue suit and red tie, he looked straight at the camera rather than the court’s chief judge, Farouq Sultan, as he read the oath.

“We aspire to a better tomorrow, a new Egypt and a second republic,” Morsi said in a brief address to the judges. The courthouse, whose court is a Nile-side structure built to resemble an ancient Egyptian temple, is next door to the military hospital where Mubarak is being held after his transfer from a prison hospital.

The ousted leader is serving a life sentence for failing to prevent the killing of protesters during the uprising that toppled his regime last year.

“Today, the Egyptian people laid the foundation of a new life — absolute freedom, a genuine democracy and stability,” said Morsi after the court ceremony.

Curiously, Morsi made no mention of the Brotherhood’s goal of bringing Egypt more in alignment with Islamic teachings in three speeches he delivered on Saturday, with his citation of a handful of Quranic verses the only sign of his political orientation.

He also did not raise the case of the Egyptian-born blind sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, who is jailed in the U.S. for plotting to blow up New York City landmarks and assassinate Mubarak.

Morsi vowed to work for his release, along with political detainees in Egypt, in Friday’s speech at Tahrir Square, but it was unclear if he planned a serious appeal or was responding to populist pressure after seeing a group of protesters with posters of the detainees.

Later at a military ceremony held at a base east of Cairo, Tantawi and Anan saluted Morsi as he arrived and awarded him the “shield of the Armed Forces” — the Egyptian military’s highest honor. Morsi also received a 21-gun salute before he and Tantawi addressed the ceremony.

The location of the ceremonies was loaded with symbolism for the Brotherhood, whose members were jailed and suppressed for decades, including during Mubarak’s secular rule.

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