Sunday, June 8, 2014 4:11 pm
Egypt’s ex-army chief, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi sworn in as President Sunday, following a landslide election victory said it was time “for our great people to obtain the fruits of their two revolutions”, in a speech to Arab royals, foreign dignitaries and Egyptian public figures at the presidential palace.
The ex-army chief became the country’s second president almost a year after he deposedthe country’s first freely elected leader strongman Hosni Mubarak in 2011, and crushed his Islamist supporters following popular uprising and unleashing more than three years of unrest.
Western countries alarmed by the brutal crackdown on dissent following Sisi’s ousting of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi mostly sent low-level representatives to his inauguration.
“The time has come to build a more stable future,” he said, after signing a power transfer with outgoing interim president Adly Mansour, a chief justice who Sisi had installed when he toppled Morsi on July 3.
The ceremony, attended by Egyptian public figures as well as foreign dignitaries who lined up to shake Sisi’s hand, appeared choreographed to display regional support for Sisi.
Many Egyptians view Sisi as the leader best suited to restoring stability and he scored a lopsided victory in a vote boycotted by Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood and secular dissidents, targeted by the army-installed government in a sweeping crackdown.
Soldiers and police deployed in force around the capital in anticipation of protests by the battered Brotherhood movement and possible militant attacks.
Earlier, Sisi took his oath at the Constitutional Court, next to the hospital where his elderly predecessor Mubarak is being detained after being convicted of corruption.
Elite policemen stood guard outside the court as helicopters dropped posters of Sisi on well-wishers who turned up to see the former army commander.
“I’m here to congratulate Sisi, the man who rescued us from terrorism and the Muslim Brotherhood,” said one flag-waving supporter, Amira Ahmed.
Riding a wave of popularity since Morsi’s overthrow, Sisi won the May 26-28 election with 96.9 percent of the vote against his only rival, leftist leader Hamdeen Sabbahi.
The nature of the victory showed he still enjoyed immense support for his overthrow of the divisive Morsi, after millions held protests demanding an end to the Islamist’s turbulent year in power.
But the lower than anticipated turnout of about 47 percent denied Sisi the overwhelming mandate he had called for ahead of the vote.
The now-banned Brotherhood had urged a boycott of the election.
Sisi’s main challenges will be to restore stability and revive the economy after the three years of turmoil that followed a 2011 uprising that ousted Mubarak.
Since Morsi’s ouster, the crackdown on his supporters has killed more than 1,400 people and left thousands behind bars, while militants have killed hundreds of policemen and soldiers.
– ‘Restrictive environment’ –
But Sisi’s opponents fear that under his rule, Egypt will return to an autocratic regime worse than under Mubarak.
In the run-up to the election, Sisi said “national security” takes precedence over democratic freedoms.
He will be the fifth Egyptian president to rise from the ranks of the military, and is expected to reassert the army’s grip on politics.
Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, who opposed Morsi’s Brotherhood, called for a donor conference to help Egypt after the results were announced.
The oil kingpin was represented at inauguration ceremony by Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz, alongside the rulers of Kuwait and Bahrain.
Western nations, which congratulated Sisi on his election win while stressing the importance of safeguarding human rights, sent low-level delegates or were represented by ambassadors.
Washington has voiced concerns about “the restrictive political environment” during the vote, urging Sisi to show “commitment to the protection of the universal rights of all Egyptians”.
Senior State Department official Thomas Shannon represented Washington at the palace ceremony.