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Stage set for Al Sissi inauguration amid tight security

Arab leaders to attend; West to send low-level delegates

Image Credit: EPA
Egyptian army soldiers on an armored vehicle keep watch outside the Supreme Constitutional Court in Cairo, Egypt, 07 June 2014. where President-elect Abdel Fattah al-Sissi., will sworn in as Egypt’s president, on 08 June 2014. Egypt has invited several world leaders, including Iranian President Hassan Rowhani, to attend the ex-army chief’s inauguration.
Gulf News

Cairo: Amid tight security, Egypt’s President-elect Abdul Fattah Al Sissi is to be sworn in on Sunday as the country’s second head of state in two years.

Al Sissi, who won a landslide victory in last month’s election, will be sworn by the 13-member general assembly of the Supreme Constitutional Court. He is likely to be transported to the venue in southern Cairo aboard an army helicopter for security reasons.

As thousands of security forces have been deployed in the area, the elite Republic Guards have been put in charge of the court building where Islamist president Mohammad Mursi, deposed by the army last year, took the oath of office in 2012.

Egyptian presidents used to go to their swearing-in ceremonies in a motorcade to greet their supporters, a tradition likely to be skipped by Al Sissi.

The new president, who led the military’s overthrow of Mursi, has recently disclosed foiling two attempts on his life allegedly masterminded by Islamist insurgents.

His swearing-in will be followed by an inaugural ceremony at the presidential palace in eastern Cairo. Kuwait Emir Shaikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah, and Saudi Crown Prince Salman Bin Abdul Aziz are among several dignitories who will attend the ceremony, according to Egyptian officials.

Monarchs of Bahrain and Jordan as well as presidents of Palestine, Eritrea and Somalia are expected to attend too.

In a sign of displeasure with alleged rights abuses in the post-Mursi transition, the bulk of Western countries will be represented by their ambassadors in Cairo at the inauguration.

Meanwhile, the US has said it will be represented by Thomas Shannon, the counsellor to Secretary of State John Kerry.

Washington and Cairo have been key allies since Egypt signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979. However, the Egyptian-US ties have deteriorated since Mursi’s ouster, although Washington stopped short of calling the Islamist leader’s removal a coup.

Mursi was Egypt’s first freely elected president, but his one-year rule was marred by political instability and public discontent about socio-economic problems.

Earlier this week, the White House said it is looking forward to working with Al Sissi, but expressed concerns about what it called restrictions on freedoms of assembly and expression in Egypt.

Only four countries — Israel, Qatar, Syria and Turkey — have not been invited to Al Sissi’s inauguration. Qatar and Turkey, staunch supporters of Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood, have been critical of Egypt’s new rulers.

By ignoring Syria and Israel, Egyptian authorities have sought to avoid embarrassing Arab allies, who maintain no ties with both countries, observers say.

Al Sissi’s supporters plan massive celebrations nationwide to mark his inauguration. Celebrated Emirati singer Hussain Jasmi was to perform Saturday evening in central Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the epicentre of a 2011 uprising that forced long-time president Hosni Mubarak out of power, media reports said

Al Jasmi has recently soared to popularity in Egypt with his hit “Boshret Kheir” or “A Good Omen”, which encouraged Egyptians to vote in the May 26-28 presidential elections.

In the run-up to the inauguration, Egyptian police launched a nationwide crackdown on Mursi’s backers and arrested dozens of them for allegedly planning to disrupt street celebrations.

In December, Egyptian authorities labelled the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organisation after blaming it for a deadly attack on police headquarters in the northern city of Mansoura.

Al Sissi, 59, is Egypt’s fifth ruler drawn from the military since a 1952 army-led revolution ended the monarchy system in the country.