CAIRO (AFP) – Ex-army chief Abdel Fattah el-Sissi took the oath of office as Egypt’s president on Sunday after a landslide election victory following the ouster of Islamist leader Mohamed Morsi last year.
The retired field marshal took the oath in a ceremony at the Constitutional Court broadcast live on television, almost a year since he overthrew Morsi and unleashed a crackdown on his Islamist followers.
“I swear by almighty God to preserve the republican system, and to respect the constitution and the law and to care for the interests of the people; and to preserve the independence of the nation and its territorial integrity,” Sissi said.
He then left the heavily guarded court, where dozens of flag-waving supporters had assembled. He will later attend a reception at a presidential palace in the presence of foreign dignitaries which include Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Arab royals from the Gulf and African leaders.
On Friday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres phoned Sissi to congratulate him on his victory.
Netanyahu’s office said he called the Egyptian leader and noted “the strategic importance of ties between the countries, and the peace agreement between them.”
The Israeli premier also wished the Egyptian people “a future of stability, prosperity and peace.”
Peres also phoned Sissi to congratulate him, saying he wanted to bolster ties between the nations.
Sissi won the May 26-28 polls with 96.9 percent of the vote, in a crushing defeat for his only rival, leftist leader Hamdeen Sabbahi, who walked away with only three percent of the vote.
The lopsided victory came nearly a year after Sissi toppled president Mohamed Morsi, winning kudos from many Egyptians who had demanded an end to the Islamist’s turbulent one-year rule.
Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, crushed by a massive crackdown, boycotted the vote.
Sissi’s main challenges will be to restore stability and revive the economy after three years of turmoil, following a 2011 uprising that ousted strongman Hosni Mubarak.
In a television address after his victory was announced Tuesday, the retired field marshal called on Egyptians to “work to return security to this nation.”
“The future is a blank page, and it is in our hands to fill with what we want… bread, freedom, human dignity, social justice,” he said.
But Sissi’s opponents fear that under his rule, Egypt will return to an autocratic regime worse than under Mubarak.
Since Morsi’s ouster, the crackdown by the military-installed authorities on his supporters has killed more than 1,400 people and left thousands behind bars.
In the run-up to the election, Sissi said that “national security” takes precedence over democratic freedoms.
He will be the fifth Egyptian president to rise from the ranks of the military and is expected to reassert the army’s grip on politics.
Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, who opposed Morsi’s Brotherhood, called for a donor conference to help Egypt after the results were announced.
The oil powerhouse was represented at the swearing-in ceremony by Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz, alongside the rulers of Kuwait and Bahrain.
Western nations, which congratulated Sissi on his election win while stressing the importance of safeguarding human rights, sent low-level officials or were represented by ambassadors.
Washington has voiced concerns about “the restrictive political environment” during the vote, urging Sissi to show “commitment to the protection of the universal rights of all Egyptians.”
Senior State Department official Thomas Shannon will represent Washington at the inauguration of the new president of Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous nation and a strategic regional partner.
Sunday has been declared a national holiday for state employees to allow them to take part in celebrations for the inauguration.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.