Nasser Nasser, Associated Press
CAIRO — Authorities may delay the announcement of the winner of Egypt's presidential election, which had been expected on Thursday, hiking tension as allegations of fraud swirled and each candidate declared he was the victor.
Amid the atmosphere of political confusion, the Muslim Brotherhood claimed there was an organized campaign of allegations against it to mar the election and keep its candidate, Mohammed Morsi, out of the presidency. The accusation raises temperatures and the possibility of a backlash from the Brotherhood if its rival — former prime minister Ahmed Shafiq — is declared the winner.
On top of the potentially explosive dispute over the election is murkiness over the latest health scare of the 84-year-old former President Hosni Mubarak, who was ousted in Egypt's uprising last year and is now serving a life sentence in prison.
Overnight, state media reported that he suffered a stroke and was put on life support. He was transferred to a military hospital from the Cairo prison hospital where he has been kept since his June 2 conviction and sentencing for failing to stop the killing of protesters during the uprising.
Security officials said Wednesday he was in a coma but off life support and his heart and other vital organs were functioning. But the ambiguity over his condition has fueled skepticism among the public, where many already suspect that reports of his deteriorating condition are merely a pretext by security and military officials sympathetic to the former boss to get him out of prison to a more comfortable facility.
Egypt's election of a successor to Mubarak was long touted as a landmark moment, the choosing of the country's first civilian president in generations, who was meant to take the reins of power from the generals who have ruled directly since Mubarak's removal on Feb. 11, 2011. Instead, it is shaping into a possible confrontation between the Brotherhood on one side and the military and entrenched elements of Mubarak's old regime.
In a series of swift moves the past week, the ruling generals have cornered for themselves multiple powers that effectively subordinate the next president and severely limit his capability for independent action.
A court order dissolved parliament, which was led by the Brotherhood, and the military issued a constitutional declaration that makes the generals the nation's legislators and gives them control of the budget. They will dominate the security system after reshaping a key National Defense Council to keep it under their control, not the president's. The generals will also oversee the process of writing Egypt's new, permanent constitution. Allies of the military and Mubarak-era officials also hold sway in the judiciary, the prosecutor's office and the election commission.
"It is clear that there is sharp polarization between the army and the Muslim Brotherhood," said Islamist Montasser el-Zayat, a prominent rights lawyer and activist. "It suggests that the next few days will probably be difficult for Egypt and the Egyptians."
An official on the election commission said a delay is possible in announcing results from the election because a panel of judges has to look into the large number of complaints over voting submitted by both Shafiq and Morsi's campaign. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the press.
There have been more complaints about last weekend's presidential runoff than any election since the ouster of Mubarak. But foreign and local monitors say the violations they observed were not serious or large-scale enough to question the legality of the process.
The Shafiq camp says that the former air force commander — who was Mubarak's last prime minister — won with 51.5 percent of the vote. The campaign of Islamist Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood says he got 52 percent to defeat Shafiq with 48 percent.
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