Egypt delayed the release of official results in a polarizing presidential election claimed by both candidates, injecting fresh uncertainty into an already troubled political transition process.
The decision to postpone the release, slated for Thursday, was because more time was needed to review voting fraud allegations submitted by Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Morsi and Ahmed Shafik, Hosni Mubarak’s last premier, the election commission said on its website. Commission Secretary-General Hatem Bagato was cited as saying by the state-run Al-Ahram Gate website that results may be announced on Saturday or Sunday.
The delay complicates the race between the two most divisive candidates who emerged from a field of 13 hopefuls in the election’s first round last month, and it threatens to stoke the tensions marring Egypt’s transition. Political wrangling has stymied efforts to boost the economy, undermined investor confidence and dimmed prospects that a $3.2 billion International Monetary Fund loan can be secured soon.
“It seems that Egypt is in a no-win situation whoever wins,” Said Hirsh, an economist at Capital Economics in London, said in response to e-mailed questions. “This is the worst scenario for investors.”
“A win for Shafik will most probably lead to major social unrest and perhaps a second revolution as the pro-revolutionary forces are unlikely to accept the result,” Hirsh said. If Morsi wins, he will “have very little power” and “it is unlikely that any new economic policy will transpire,” he said.
Egyptians have been awaiting official results of the vote that would give the country its first Islamist civilian president or hand power to a former aide of the ousted President Hosni Mubarak. Both candidates have claimed victory.
The commission said it received more than 400 complaints from the two candidates, the state-run Middle East News Agency reported. Alleged violations include claims of more than one ballot cast by the same voter or votes using the names of deceased people, the news service said.
The ruling military council has moved to boost its powers at the expense of the new president, fueling protests against the generals.
Islamists and many of the youths behind the anti-Mubarak revolt say Shafik, a former air force officer, has close ties to the ruling military and seeks to revive Mubarak’s regime. Critics of the Brotherhood say the group wants to monopolize power and impose Islamic rule on the country.
Shafik ran on a law-and-order platform, highlighting the deterioration of security since the revolt last year, while Morsi portrayed himself as the “revolutionary” candidate in runoffs that started June 16. The ruling generals say they regard the candidates equally.
The candidate’s campaign said yesterday it would “congratulate Morsi if the commission announces he won the presidency,” Ahram Gate reported.
The presidential vote was intended to cap a transition to democracy that was punctuated by political bickering, protests and outbursts of violence. Many Egyptians have said they hoped the election would encourage stability. Instead, it has polarized the population of a country that has yet to agree on a new constitution that would define the president’s powers.
Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Mahmoud Ghozlan said Wednesday “the people will not accept” an announcement that Shafik has won. Morsi had a comfortable lead, he said.
Tens of thousands of people massed on Tuesday in a show of force against a military council decree that gave it more authority. The Islamist-led protest also rejected the court- ordered dissolution of parliament and the military’s newly minted rights to arrest civilians. Critics of the military council and some analysts have said the recent developments tightened the military’s grip on power and amounted to a “coup,” even as the ruling generals reiterated pledges to transfer to civilian rule by the end of this month.
The military’s decree, issued shortly after ballot counting began, was part of a wider push to “militarize the state,” according to Ghozlan.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday that Egypt’s military must “follow through on the democratic process.” The U.S. has “some really clear red lines” about what should occur, including an “inclusive democratic process,” Clinton said in Washington.
The recent tensions come after bickering between the Islamist-dominated parliament, in which the Brotherhood represented the largest bloc, and the military-appointed government.
“The military has maintained an advantage over the Brotherhood,” Hani Sabra, a Middle East analyst at Eurasia Group, said. “The Brotherhood has done a fine job in alienating a large-enough portion of the population. People who are now on the fence would like to see some balance. That’s why, if indeed Morsi is the winner, the military can get away with codifying these privileges.”
Adding to the political puzzle has been confusion surrounding Mubarak. The 84-year-old former leader was in a military hospital amid conflicting reports about his health after he was rushed from a prison intensive-care unit where he had been held since being sentenced to life in prison on June 2.
Ahmed Maher, co-founder of the April 6 youth movement that helped to organize last year’s uprising, said the fight for change won’t end when Mubarak’s successor is named.
“We will support Morsi in the battle against the new military powers and the military coup we are seeing, not out of love for him but to establish a non-military, civil state, and to fight the old regime and prevent it from returning,” Maher said by phone.
The April 6 group said it has put its differences with the Brotherhood aside to block Shafik from the presidency. The group will oppose Morsi if he fails to deliver on promises not to monopolize power and to include other political groups and minorities, Maher said.
“If Shafik wins, we will consider this to be rigging and I think Egypt will see heightened tensions,” he said. “We are certain that the day will come when the revolution will be able to impose its will.”
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