Copyright ©2012 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Egypt has a new leader in place today. Mohammed Morsi is spending his first full day as the country's president. He is Egypt's first Islamist head of state. Merrit Kennedy has this profile from Cairo.

PRESIDENT MOHAMMED MORSI: (Foreign language spoken)

MERRIT KENNEDY, BYLINE: The day before his inauguration, Morsi addressed a huge crowd in Cairo's Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the revolution that ousted his predecessor Hosni Mubarak.

MORSI: (Through Translator) I am standing before you, the Egyptian people, those who voted for me, those who opposed me, I am yours.

KENNEDY: Nathan Brown, a professor at George Washington University, says that Morsi's image and personal history are very different than previous presidents.

NATHAN BROWN: He really comes from the outside. He comes from a much more modest background. He really seems to be, you know, this sort of stodgy, fairly conservative, Egyptian from the provinces that most people would recognize very easily as a man down the street.

KENNEDY: Morsi has spent most of his career as an engineering professor at Egyptian universities and at California State Northridge. Brown says that although Morsi has long been a central figure in the Muslim Brotherhood, he kept largely out of the spotlight until recently. He was the Brotherhood's backup candidate for the presidency, only emerging to contest and then win the election after the group's first choice was disqualified. Just moments after the voting ended, the ruling military council, or SCAF, dramatically reduced the president's authority in a constitutional addendum. Waleed al-Haddad, a senior member of the Brotherhood's political party, says that Morsi's first challenge as president will be to try to get those powers back.

WALEED AL-HADDAD: I think Mohammed Morsi will deal with this issue in a political way, not a hard confrontation with SCAF.

KENNEDY: The struggle between the military and the Brotherhood will play out as Morsi works to convince Egyptians that he is able to unite the country after his narrow victory at the polls. He's made several gestures already, such as promising to appoint a woman and a Coptic Christian as vice presidents and resigning as head of the Muslim Brotherhood's political arm. Again, analyst Nathan Brown.

BROWN: I think it will be absolutely critical for his legitimacy to be somebody who is not simply pursuing the organizational aims of the Brotherhood but to have something like the broader national interest in mind.

KENNEDY: Considering his long history with the Brotherhood - a group that is popular, but polarizing - many are skeptical about whether he will actually distance himself from the organization, like Mohammed Abu Hamed, a liberal politician.

MOHAMMED ABU HAMED: (Through Translator) He has advanced within its ranks until he became one of the leaders of the group. This means that he's not only a member, but is fully indoctrinated with their thoughts, beliefs and principles.

KENNEDY: Abu Hamed says that he's concerned Morsi will put his party's Islamist agenda ahead of the national interest. But Morsi's initial policy plans focus on practical issues most Egyptians can agree on, rather than more controversial religious or cultural issues. Waleed el-Haddad outlines the new president's 100-day plan.

AL-HADDAD: Five files: Number one is security; number two, traffic; number three, fuel; number four, the waste; number five, bread.

KENNEDY: Nathan Brown says Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood colleagues know they'll have to hit the ground running.

BROWN: But they knew they would have to prove themselves very quickly. And they also knew that this is a society that is poor, that is in the middle of an economic crisis, and that is looking not for grand slogans but for very, very practical answers.

KENNEDY: Amid a turbulent political environment, Egyptians are waiting to see whether Morsi will have the power and the political will to make good on his promises. For NPR News, I'm Merrit Kennedy in Cairo.

Copyright © 2012 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.