Sisi sworn in as Egypt's president

Last updated 07:39 09/06/2014

Retired army commander Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is sworn in as Egypt's new president. Vanessa Johnston reports.

SWORN IN: Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
Reuters
SWORN IN: Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

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Former Egyptian army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi promised to rule in an inclusive manner after he was sworn in as president in a ceremony with low-key attendance by Western allies concerned by a crackdown on dissent.

Last month's election, which officials said Sisi won with 97 per cent of the vote, followed three years of upheaval since a popular uprising ended 30 years of rule by former air force commander Hosni Mubarak.

Security in Cairo was extra tight, with armoured personnel carriers and tanks positioned in strategic locations as Sisi spoke to foreign dignitaries after a 21-gun salute at Cairo's main presidential palace.

He called for hard work and the development of freedom "in a responsible framework away from chaos" but did not mention human rights or democracy.

"Throughout its extended history over thousands of years our country has never witnessed a democratic peaceful handover of power," said Sisi, the sixth Egyptian leader with a military background.

Sisi called for "an inclusive national march" in a country that has been polarised since he ousted President Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood last year after mass protests.

Near Tahrir Square, the symbolic heart of the revolt against Mubarak where protesters now rarely tread, young men sold t-shirts with the image of Sisi in his trademark dark sunglasses.

Commentators on state and private media heaped praise on him, turning a blind eye to what human rights groups say are widespread abuses, in the hope that he can deliver stability and rescue the economy.

Many Egyptians share that hope, but they have limited patience, staging street protests that toppled two leaders in the past three years, and the election turnout of just 47 per cent shows Sisi is not as popular as when he toppled Mursi.

"Sisi has to do something in his first 100 days, people will watch closely and there might be another revolution. That's what people are like in this country," said theology student Israa Youssef, 21.

Western countries, who hoped the overthrow of Mubarak in 2011 would usher in a new era of democracy, have watched Egypt's political transition stumble.

Mursi was the country's first freely elected president, but his year in power was tarnished by accusations that he usurped power, imposed the Brotherhood's views on Islam and mismanaged the economy, allegations he denied.

After Sisi deposed him and became Egypt's de facto ruler, security forces mounted one of the toughest crackdowns on the Brotherhood in its 86-year history. Hundreds were killed in street protests and thousands of others jailed. Secular activists were eventually thrown into jail too, even those who supported Mursi's fall, because they violated a new law that severely restricts protests.

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- Reuters

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