Egypt's president-elect took a symbolic oath of office a day early, vowing to do whatever necessary to retain all presidential authorities. In doing so, he signaled his defiance to the ruling generals.
President-elect Mohammed Morsi spoke to cheering fans on Friday, just a day before his official swearing-in ceremony. He stated that no power was greater than presidential power, signaling his disagreement with the ruling military council taking over major presidential powers and its disbanding of the Islamist-controlled parliament just days before the election.
"I swear to preserve the republican system... and to preserve the independence" of Egypt, he said.
"Everybody is hearing me now. The government ... the military and the police. ... No power above this power," he told the mostly Islamist crowd. "I reaffirm to you I will not give up any of the president's authorities. I can't afford to do this. I don't have that right."
Just days before the presidential runoff earlier this month, the ruling military council disbanded the country's first freely elected parliament after a court determined the parliamentary elections were illegal. Then, as the polls closed, it issued a constitutional declaration that gave the military rulers legislative powers and control over drafting a new constitution.
Morsi also promised his supporters something that is likely to lead to arguments with US officials when he vowed to seek the release of blind sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman. The sheik is serving a life sentence in the US for plotting to blow up New York City landmarks and assassinate then-President Hosni Mubarak.
The pledge to seek Abdel-Rahman's release came in response to repeated calls by his ultraconservative supporters for the sheik to be repatriated to Egypt.
Morsi managed to avoid direct confrontation with the military leaders and was set to be officially sworn in on Saturday during a ceremony at the country's high court - not parliament, the traditional venue. The generals dictated the swearing-in process, trying to make it clear who is in charge.
Throughout his speech, Morsi referred to the sovereignty of the people, the importance of unity and sticking to the goals of the revolution.
"Decade after decade, after long injustice and darkened night, we reached the January 25 revolution," Morsi said. "The revolution continues and is crystallized today as a clear will for the people in a president elected to lead the ship of the country … and leading the revolution," he added.
tm/slk (AP, AFP)