CAIRO – Mohamed Morsi was sworn in as Egypt's fifth president Saturday, in a low-key ceremony before the country's Supreme Constitutional Court. Later, he addressed supporters and top officials at Cairo University.
Speaking at Cairo University, Morsi took a symbolic oath of office for a third time in 24 hours. He vowed to defend the security of the nation and to uphold the independence of the judiciary.
Morsi also showered praise on Egypt's armed forces, but urged them to return to their primary duty of protecting the nation.
He called the army the shield and the sword of the nation and stressed that its duty is to defend the nation and protect its security from outside threats. He went on to urge the army to go back to its chief duty of protecting Egypt's borders.
Field Marshall Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, who heads the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), sat in the front of the auditorium, listening impassively. The SCAF and Morsi have been locked in a tug-of-war over the exact duties of the new president.
Morsi also vowed, as he has done several times in recent days, to uphold international treaties and accords, but went on to insist - in a pointed reference to Israel - that Egyptians support the Palestinian people in achieving what he called their “legitimate rights.” He added that he would work to restore unity among Palestinian leaders.
President Morsi also spoke of a national “rebirth,” insisting that there is an urgent need for all Egyptians to participate in that rebirth. He went on to urge Egyptians to “put a stop to chaos,” especially in the economy, and vowed to fight for social justice.
Morsi took his official oath of office before Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court earlier in a ceremony that was delayed for several hours. The inauguration was not open to the public, but Egyptian TV broadcast the event live. Security was tight, but traffic continued to flow outside the building.
The head of Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court, Farouq Sultan, presided over the ceremony. Sultan officially retires at the end of the day Saturday and was performing his last official act. He called the inauguration a momentous event.
He described the inauguration as an important day in the history of the nation, insisting that it was an honor and a proud occasion for him to welcome Egypt's first president elected by the will of the people after what he called a free and fair election.
Lawmakers from Egypt's recently dissolved parliament were invited to attend Morsi's speech at Cairo University, despite the decision to unseat them. A last-minute struggle between Morsi and the SCAF to have parliament reinstated failed.
Morsi took a symbolic oath Friday before a large crowd of supporters in Cairo's Tahrir Square. He declared that his legitimacy stems from the people and vowed to uphold their will. He also pledged to work for the freedom of Egypt's blind Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, held in a U.S. prison for collusion in terrorist attacks in the U.S.