Egypt’s new president, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, was inaugurated Sunday to head the government of a nation plagued by political turmoil and economic problems.
El-Sissi’s inauguration took place at the Constitutional Court, where Mohammed Morsi, the elected president he overthrew nearly a year ago, was also sworn in.
“The time has come to build a more stable future that writes a new reality for this country — a reality that makes hard work the platform of our lives,” said the former field marshal, who left the army to run for president as a civilian. He urged Egyptians to reject chaos in favor of order, and said freedom must be exercised with “responsibility.”
Authorities decreed the day a national holiday, and the former defense chief’s ascension was marked by tight security and displays of military strength. Police and soldiers were deployed throughout the capital, and the former army chief reviewed an honor guard as military helicopters flew overhead.
Supporters gathered to celebrate in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the center of the 2011 revolution that toppled longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak. In the square, there was a carnival atmosphere, with street vendors and flag-waving children. But the mood was funereal among those alarmed by a sharp curtailment of basic rights in the past 11 months.
The 59-year-old el-Sissi, who had served as the country’s de facto leader since last July’s removal of Morsi by the army, was elected president last month in a landslide vote. International monitors said the balloting itself was conducted correctly, but criticized the atmosphere of repression surrounding it.
Morsi and thousands of his followers in the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood are in jail, and the deposed president could face the death penalty if convicted on charges that include espionage and murder. More than 1,400 Morsi supporters have died in clashes with security forces in the past year.
Secular opponents of the interim government have also been targeted by the authorities. Some of the leading figures in the 2011 uprising are in prison, and their supporters say Egypt has reverted to the police-state style of governance that characterized the Mubarak era.
Mubarak is imprisoned in a military hospital not far from the court complex where el-Sissi was sworn in.