Egypt's New President Officially Sworn In

Egypt's new president, Mohamed Morsi, takes the oath of office in Cairo Saturday. He is the country's first civilian president. Host Scott Simon talks with NPR's Peter Kenyon.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Of course, Egypt has a new president - an Islamist from the once-banned Muslim Brotherhood. Mohammed Morsi took the oath of office in Cairo today, a day after appearing at Tahrir Square to proclaim that the people are the real source of power, not the generals and the supreme military council. NPR's Peter Kenyon reports from Cairo that despite the swearing-in ceremony, Mr. Morsi may not have really taken hold of the reins of power.

PRESIDENT MOHAMMED MORSI: (Foreign language spoken)

PETER KENYON, BYLINE: Mohammed Morsi took the oath of office before the constitutional court instead of the parliament, because right now Egypt doesn't have a parliament. It was dissolved by the military council, which took for itself both legislative and most executive authority. The swearing in was a tightly-controlled affair, which some saw as fitting for a largely symbolic transfer of power. There's no clear indication yet when full executive powers will be returned to the presidency and when there will be a parliament capable of passing new laws and a constitution to guide them.

(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD CHANTING)

KENYON: For many Egyptians, the real swearing-in occurred yesterday in Tahrir Square, where Morsi recited the same oath before thousands of cheering supporters.

MORSI: (Foreign language spoken)

KENYON: You own the power. It's your will. You are the source of power, said Morsi, adding that he wasn't wearing a flak jacket because he fears only God and the people. It was a passionate speech, much more so than people are used to from Mohammed Morsi, a quiet engineer known here mostly as a loyal sidekick to the Muslim Brotherhood's original presidential candidate, Khairat el-Shater. Morsi was thrust into the race at the eleventh hour, when Shater was disqualified, and Egyptians are still getting to know him, with some wondering if the Muslim Brotherhood's highly disciplined leadership will be calling the shots from behind the scenes, despite Morsi's insistence that he intends to be the president of all Egyptians.

Morsi has announced an ambitious list of promises, from reviving the shattered economy to solving the Gordian knot that is Cairo traffic. But many are wondering how he plans to fulfill his promises when the military holds most of the levers of power. Analyst Omar Ashour from the University of Exeter says sorting out a real handover of executive power from the military has to be a top priority for the new president, and he's unlikely to get everything he wants.

OMAR ASHOUR: The army until now wants a veto in anything that has to do with high politics; sensitive foreign policy, national security issues. It wants to maintain its economic empire which really weighs on the economy of Egypt. So, they will want to maintain the status quo, and they will want also immunity from any corruption or repression charges. And this is where Morsi will probably have to bargain.

KENYON: At the same time, Morsi has to satisfy two diametrically opposed camps - an anxious coalition of young revolutionaries and liberals that wants to see a pluralistic, democratic government for the new Egypt, and social and religious conservatives who favor a theocracy. Both will be closely watching who Morsi names to his cabinet and other leadership posts. Analyst Abdel Monem Saeed says it will take time for Morsi to sort out the political issues. But he says there is one thing that he and the military can agree on immediately - the need to get Egyptians back to work and restore the confidence of foreign investors who have pulled out of the country since the revolution. Saeed believes that could happen, but only if Morsi and the Brotherhood make their first priority establishing stability.

MONEM SAEED: So, you know, once you've got stability, you have 1,800 factories, big factories, that stopped working since the revolution. So, getting them back to work - if he did that, I think the economy will start moving. Then, the mobilization for a longer term, medium and longer term.

KENYON: But analysts say Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood will find that hard to do as long as they maintain one foot in the presidential palace and one among the revolutionaries in Tahrir Square. Peter Kenyon, NPR News, Cairo.

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