New Egyptian leader is longtime jurist described as 'genial but unknown'

The man who will shepherd Egypt from four days of tumultuous political protests into its highly uncertain future is a little-known judge described by a colleague as fair, reserved and committed to cooperation.

Adly Mansour, 67, who was chairman of the Supreme Constitutional Court before he was hurried into office Thursday, used his first moments as interim president to cast himself as a servant of the people who is interested in building an inclusive government.

He spoke admiringly of the enormous crowds that had gathered in Tahrir Square in Cairo to demand the ouster of his predecessor, Mohammed Morsi, and said he hoped they would continue “flying the flag of this revolution.”

“We look forward to hold presidential and parliamentary elections based on a genuine people’s will,” Mansour said. He told journalists later that everyone, including the Morsi-allied Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist movement, was invited to participate.

Mohammed Hamed El Gamal, the former head of the State Council judicial body, told Al Shabab, an offshoot of the state-run newspaper, that Mansour is cooperative and understanding.

“I am certain that he will respect the will of the Egyptian people,” he said.

Nathan J. Brown, a professor of international affairs at George Washington University, described him in the journal Foreign Affairs as “genial but unknown,” apparently with the authority to “design the interim constitutional order however he sees fit.”

“The military has promised to consult everyone but has laid out only the vaguest mechanisms for doing so,” he wrote.

Mansour was actually appointed to the constitutional court by Hosni Mubarak, the autocrat who ruled Egypt for almost 30 years before he was ousted in 2011 in the earliest days of the Arab Spring movement.

He was elevated to chief justice only last week by Morsi, who was democratically elected last summer and spent only a year in office before Egyptians, frustrated by what they saw as ineffectual leadership and an allegiance to Islamists, forced him out.

Mansour has a deep grounding in the law. He studied at the respected Cairo University and graduated in 1967. He also studied in Paris and served as a legal adviser to the Saudi Arabian trade minister for most of the 1980s.

He became a judge in 1984 and deputy head of the constitutional court in 1992, a position he held for more than two decades before he was given the top job just earlier this week.

Now he will lead Egypt through a time of upheaval. Though he promised fresh elections, he did not give a date. He said that Egypt must stop producing “tyrants” and worship only God, not its presidents.

Mansour was welcomed Thursday by Arab states — notably including Qatar, which provided billions of dollars of loans and grants to Egypt under Morsi and which supported the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Qatar News Agency reported that the Qatari emir had sent a cable of congratulations to Mansour and praised the army’s role in safeguarding the national security of Egypt.

Mansour, in his remarks, also praised the Egyptian media, which some Egyptians believed Morsi had tried to squelch.

The new president described the media as a “courageous free beacon that lit the way for the people and unveiled the misdeeds of the former regime,” according to the news channel Al Arabiya.