Crowds gather for Morsi speech
Egypt's president-elect Mohamed Morsi took an informal oath of office today before tens of thousands of supporters in Cairo's Tahrir Square, in a slap at the generals trying to limit his power.
"I swear by God that I will sincerely protect the republican system and that I respect the constitution and the rule of law," Mr Morsi said to wild cheers from the crowd, many of whom were followers of his once-banned Muslim Brotherhood.
"I will look after the interests of the people and protect the independence of the nation and the safety of its territory," said the bearded Mr Morsi, in an open-necked shirt and suit.
He is to be sworn in officially tomorrow by the constitutional court, rather than by parliament as is usual.
The court dissolved the Islamist-dominated lower house this month in a series of measures designed to ensure that the generals who took over from ousted ruler Hosni Mubarak will keep a strong grip on Egypt's affairs even after Mr Morsi takes power.
"There is no power above people power," said Mr Morsi. "Today you are the source of this power. You give this power to whoever you want and you withhold it from whoever you want."
His defiant speech was a clear challenge to the army, which also says it represents the will of the people.
The 60-year-old US-trained engineer addressed himself to "the Muslims and Christians of Egypt" and promised them a "civil, nationalist, constitutional state".
Mr Morsi also paid homage to a militant Egyptian cleric jailed in the United States. "I see the family of Omar Abdel-Rahman [in Tahrir]," he said.
"And I see the banners of the families of those who have been jailed by the (Egyptian) military." He pledged to work for the release of the prisoners, including Abdel-Rahman.
Tens of thousands of Egyptians cheered Mr Morsi's arrival in the square that was the hub of the anti-Mubarak uprising.
"Say it loud, Egyptians, Morsi is the president of the republic," they chanted. "A full revolution or nothing. Down, down with military rule. We, the people, are the red line."
The military council that pushed Mubarak aside on February 11th, 2011 has supervised a chaotic stop-go transition since then, holding parliamentary and presidential elections, but then effectively negating their outcome to preserve its own power.
"Do we accept that parliament is dissolved?" cheerleaders from the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) asked the throng in Tahrir. "No," the party faithful thundered back.
Mr Morsi was declared president last Sunday, a nerve-racking week after a run-off vote in which he narrowly beat former air force chief Ahmed Shafik, who was Mubarak's last prime minister.
After being sworn in as the first freely elected civilian president of the most populous Arab state tomorrow, Mr Morsi would speak at Cairo University, a presidency statement said.
Hundreds of protesters have been camped out in Tahrir for weeks to press the army to transfer power to civilians.
"I'm here to tell the military council that we, the people, elected parliament so it is only us, the people, who can dissolve it," said Intissar al-Sakka, a teacher and FJP member.