Egypt's new president starts work

Mon, Jun 25, 2012, 01:00

The new Egyptian president, Islamist Mohamed Mursi, today toured his palatial new residence and began work to form a coalition government.

Declared the winner yesterday a week after a tense run-off vote that pitted him against an ex-military officer, the country's first freely elected president faces the challenge of meeting sky-high expectations in a nation tired of turmoil while the economy is on the ropes.

But the Muslim Brotherhood figure's campaign pledge to complete the revolution that toppled Mubarak last year but left the pillars of his rule intact will come up against the entrenched interests of the generals who have been in charge of the transition to democracy.

Shortly before the presidential vote, the newly elected Islamist-led parliament was dissolved by the army based on a court order and the generals issued a decree putting limits on the president's remit, which cuts into Mr Mursi's powers to act but exposes him to blame for any failures.

A security official said Mursi and his wife took a tour of their new home, once ousted leader Hosni Mubarak's main residence - a dramatic

change of fortunes for a former political prisoner whose group was pursued remorselessly during Mubarak's 30-year rule.

An aide said Mursi then went to the Defence Ministry for talks with the head of the military council Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi and the army-appointed Prime Minister Kamal al-Ganzouri for talks on steps towards forming a new government.

As president, Mursi can appoint the cabinet. His aides say he has already reached out to politicians from outside the Brotherhood such as reformist Mohamed ElBaradei, who has yet to publicly respond.

But legislative powers remain with the army while the parliament is dissolved, restricting his power to act.One pressing concern - on which many Egyptians are likely to judge his performance - will to be to revive the economy.

Egyptian newspapers greeted Mr Mursi's win over Ahmed Shafik, Mubarak's last prime minister, as a victory for the people, although many more liberal-minded Egyptians worry his conservative group will slowly whittle away at social freedoms.

"The revolution reaches the republican palace," wrote Al-Shorouk newspaper. Another, Al-Akhbar, quoted from the victory speech: "I am a servant of the people and an employee of the citizens".

Reuters

Mr Morsi has called for unity following his victory in Egypt's presidential elections.

Behind the scenes, talks were already under way between the Islamists and generals to resolve disputes that blew up this month over steps by the ruling military council to hem in the powers of the first freely elected president Egypt has known.

Cairo's Tahrir Square, theatre of the revolution that ousted Hosni Mubarak, exploded in joy - and relief - yesterday as Mr Morsi was declared the narrow but convincing winner of last weekend's presidential run-off against Mr

Shafik, another scion of the military establishment which has ruled Egypt for 60 years.

The celebrations continued through an unforgettable night after Mr Morsi won by 3.5 percentage points or some 880,000 votes.

Those in Egypt and beyond who feared a win for Mr Shafik might have spelled the end of the Arab Spring acknowledged a triumph for the popular will, and for the army which accepted it.

From Syria's opposition came word that Cairo was again a "source of hope" for a people "facing a repressive war of annihilation."

But beyond the vast throng who waved their flags and chanted praises to God for hours on end on Tahrir Square, millions of Egyptians, and the Western powers, looked on with unease at the prospect of the long-suppressed Brotherhood making good on its dream of an Islamic state for the Arab world's biggest nation.

Reuters