Egyptians pack Tahrir on eve of Morsi inauguration

Egyptians pack Tahrir on eve of Morsi inauguration

Crowds thronged Cairo’s iconic Tahrir Square on Friday as Islamist Mohamed Morsi prepared to address supporters on the eve of his swearing-in as Egypt’s first civilian president.

Hundreds gathered from mid-morning braving the searing heat, hours before Morsi was expected to arrive in the huge central plaza that was the epicentre of the protest movement that ousted veteran strongman Hosni Mubarak last year.

Chants against the ruling military which took over on Mubarak’s overthrow rang out from among the crowd.

Even after taking the oath, Morsi will still have to contend with the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, headed by Mubarak’s longtime defence minister Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, which will retain broad powers after it formally transfers power. The liberal Wafd newspaper reported that Tantawi will stay on as defence minister in Morsi’s new government. “Down with the power of the military,” the demonstrators chanted. “Field marshal, tell us the truth — is Morsi your president or not?”

The slogans dented hopes expressed in an editorial in the flagship state-owned daily al-Ahram on Friday that announcement of the details of Morsi’s swearing-in would end speculation about the military’s real intentions.

“The swearing-in should dispel once and for all the doubts raised by those who have used every means to question the military’s readiness to hand over power,” the paper said.

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