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Egypt's Islamist president begins building government

25 June 2012, 15:43

CAIRO (Reuters) - Mohamed Morsy of the Muslim Brotherhood sets about building a civilian administration for Egypt on Monday that can heal a divisive history of oppression and coax a mistrustful army into relaxing its grip on power.

Behind the scenes, talks were already under way between the Islamists and generals to resolve disputes that blew up this month over steps by the ruling military council to hem in the powers of the first freely elected president Egypt has known.

Cairo's Tahrir Square, theatre of the revolution that ousted Hosni Mubarak, exploded in joy - and relief - on Sunday as Morsy was declared the narrow but convincing winner of last weekend's presidential run-off against Ahmed Shafik, another scion of the military establishment which has ruled Egypt for 60 years.

The celebrations continued through an unforgettable night after Morsy won by 3.5 percentage points or some 880,000 votes.

Those in Egypt and beyond who feared a win for Shafik might have spelled the end of the Arab Spring acknowledged a triumph for the popular will, and for the army which accepted it. From Syria's opposition came word that Cairo was again a "source of hope" for a people "facing a repressive war of annihilation."

But beyond the vast throng who waved their flags and chanted praises to God for hours on end on Tahrir Square, millions of Egyptians, and the Western powers, looked on with unease at the prospect of the long-suppressed Brotherhood making good on its dream of an Islamic state for the Arab world's biggest nation.

Among the most anxious were the young, urban revolutionaries who launched last year's uprising but saw their representatives knocked out in last month's first round vote, as well as diehard supporters of the old regime who fear for their privileges. Some Shafik admirers wept in fury that the army had "betrayed" them.

As president, Mursi can appoint the cabinet. His aides say he has already reached out to politicians from outside the Brotherhood such as reformist Mohamed ElBaradei, who has yet to publicly respond. But legislative powers remain with the army while the parliament is dissolved, restricting his power to act.

One pressing concern - on which many Egyptians are likely to judge his performance - will to be to revive the economy. Monday's stock market rally, at least partly fuelled by relief that the vote and result passed off without violence, may encourage the new president, but he still has to prove to wary longer-term investors that Egypt is on the road to recovery.




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