CAIRO (Reuters) - Islamist president-elect Mohamed Morsy pledged on Sunday to be a president for all Egyptians and to unite the nation, speaking in a televised address hours after he was declared the winner of last weekend’s presidential election.
With the country anxious after a history of confrontation between Morsy’s Muslim Brotherhood and the military, which has ruled for six decades, Morsy praised the army for its role in governing since last year’s overthrow of Hosni Mubarak.
In gesture directed at Israel, which has been concerned about its 33-year-old peace treaty with Egypt, Morsy also promised to uphold all international treaties.
“We thank God for reaching this historic moment, this luminous moment which Egyptians achieved by their own hands, their blood, their tears and their sacrifices,” he said at a podium embossed with the presidential seal.
More than 850 people were killed in the three-week uprising.
The last time Egyptians were addressed from a presidential lectern was in the dying days of Mubarak’s rule, as he sought in vain to placate protesters. Now, 500 days after he was pushed out on February 11, 2011, the group Mubarak and his predecessors suppressed for decades has secured the top post.
“I am today a president for all Egyptians wherever they are: at home and abroad, in all the governorates and cities and villages of Egypt, along the eastern border, the western border, the south, the north or in the centre,” said Morsy, flanked by the Egyptian flag.
The presidential race polarized the nation between Islamists committed to voting for Morsy and those who rallied behind his rival Ahmed Sheik, a former military man, hoping he would restore order or fearing rule by a religious conservative.
Many in the centre ground struggled with a choice between two men, both of whom they found unpalatable.
“There is no room now for the language of confrontation nor will there ever be room for accusations of treachery among us,” he said. “This national unity is now the route Egypt must take to move itself beyond this difficult period.”
He hailed the role of the armed forces, whose generals were praised by Egyptians for pushing aside Mubarak during the uprising but who have faced mounting anger for their handling of the transition. The Brotherhood and others have accused them of trying to hold on to power, despite the generals’ denials.
In a bid to broaden his appeal, Morsy had claimed the mantle of the revolution in the run-off against Shafik: “The revolution is continuing until it achieves all its goals. Together we will complete this journey,” he said in his address.
Morsy began and ended his speech with religious references, and occasionally veered into a religious style during his 25-minute address. Mubarak always ended speeches with a traditional Islamic farewell, but generally avoided pious language.
Earlier in the day, Israel voiced respect for the Brotherhood’s victory in the election and called on the new administration in Cairo to maintain their 1979 peace accord.
“We will uphold international treaties and agreements between Egypt and the world,” Morsy said, a nod to Israel although he did not name Egypt’s Jewish neighbor.
“We call for peace with the entire world,” he said. “But nonetheless Egypt is capable with its people, its men, its armed forces and its great history, to defend itself and prevent any aggression or even any thought of aggression against it or against its children no matter where they are.”
Reporting by Marwa Awad, Shaimaa Fayed and Tamim Elyan; Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Alastair Macdonald