Egypt's election committee said on Wednesday it may not be ready to announce the results of a run-off presidential vote on Thursday as planned because it was still reviewing appeals from the two candidates, both of whom claim to have won.
Egyptians voted at the weekend to choose a replacement for Hosni Mubarak, who was ousted in a popular uprising last year. The race pitted the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohammed Morsi against Ahmed Shafik, a former air force commander who was Mubarak's last prime minister.
"We cannot announce when exactly the timing of the announcement of the election results will be because now we are at the stage of listening to the representatives," said Committee Secretary-General Hatem Bagato.
"The committee will meet afterwards to decide on whether to accept the appeals or not. After that there will be a time set to announce the final result," he added, speaking by phone.
Bagato issued an official statement later in the day with more detail.
"The committee has decided to continue to examine the appeals, which involves looking at records and logs related to the electoral process, and this will necessitate more time before announcing the final results," the statement said.
Any lengthy delay in disclosing the results risks prolonging uncertainty and stoking tension at a time when it is unclear how big a role the military will continue to play in leading the country.
On Tuesday, a U.S. election monitoring group said it was unable to say if Egypt's presidential election was free and fair as it had not been given sufficient access, accusing the military leadership of hampering a transition to democracy.
Beyond the election itself, the group — the Carter Center — said a court's decision to dissolve the Islamist-dominated parliament and a decree from the ruling military council limiting the future president's powers increased the risk that Egypt was not becoming the democracy that many had hoped for.
Omar Salama, a legal advisor and member of the election committee's secretariat, said Morsi had filed over 150 complaints against his rival Shafik. Al Ahram newspaper said on its website that Shafik had submitted 221 complaints about the results.
No official figures have been announced, but candidates had representatives at polling stations and were able to make their own tallies.
"We must give both sides all the time they need to ensure that the process is fair and prevent any claims later on that not enough time was given to both sides," Bagato explained.
© 2015 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.