Egypt leader challenges military rule


BEFORE TENS of thousands of supporters gathered yesterday in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, seat of the country’s revolution, Egypt’s president-elect Mohamed Morsi challenged the rule of the military in an emotional speech.

He took the oath he will formally repeat today before the country’s supreme court. “I swear by Almighty God to safeguard the republic and the law,” he told the crowd, making it clear that the pledge was binding because he was making it before the people who “are the source of all power and legitimacy”.

Pumping the air with his fist, he stated “no institution is above the law”, directing this declaration at the military and the court that have tried to limit the prerogatives of the president and have usurped the powers of the legislature.

Mr Morsi, who resigned from the Muslim Brotherhood, called for national unity and promised to defend the “civil state, the constitutional state” and work to give “all Egyptians a decent life”. Demonstrators waved Palestinian, Syrian and Libyan flags to show support for Arab Spring uprisings and demanded to know if field marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, head of Egypt’s ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (Scaf), recognises Mr Morsi as president.

In the run-up to today’s partial transfer of power, the field marshal assumed the offices of commander-in-chief and defence minister.

Pro-brotherhood preacher Safwat Hegazy, who delivered the sermon at noon prayers in the square, attacked the military directly: “Egypt mustn’t be ruled by 19 army generals.”

He urged Egyptians to maintain pressure on the Scaf which, he said, seeks to “consolidate the military state”.

He called on people who voted for Mr Morsi’s rival, former prime minister Ahmad Shafik, to “let go of the past” and unite with those who elected Mr Morsi.

The brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, the ultra- orthodox Salafi Noor, moderate fundamentalists and the liberal April 6th movement, the vanguard of the protest movement, took part in the rally. The revolutionary socialists organised a separate march, while leftist and liberal parties boycotted, accusing the brotherhood of promoting partisan rather than national interests and of capitulating to the military by agreeing that Mr Morsi would take the oath of office at the constitutional court that dissolved the lower house of parliament.

Several secular parties and figures have launched a “third current” to challenge both military and fundamentalists, defend personal and political rights and defend Egypt’s “civil” or secular polity.

The prime movers of the effort are Nobel laureate Mohamed ElBaradei, founder of the Constitution Party, and Mohamed Abul-Ghar, head of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party.

Dr Abul-Ghar made the point that secular forces “accounted for the majority of those who launched the revolution [and] the majority of martyrs”.

The three issues being given priority by this grouping are the drafting of a constitution, upcoming municipal elections, and the new parliamentary election due to be held in six months’ time if a constitution has been written and approved by referendum.

With the aim of ensuring the survival of the constitutional commission, talks have been taking place to secure the return of liberal and Christian figures and legal experts who resigned from the body. They pulled out to protest its domination by fundamentalists appointed by the dissolved people’s assembly where the brotherhood and Noor held 70 per cent of the seats.

The withdrawal of liberal and leftist appointees from an earlier fundamentalist-controlled commission led to its disbandment by the military, which has threatened to veto provisions the Scaf does not accept or dismiss the commission, which is set to meet in its first session today.