The Muslim Brotherhood said new unrest may be sparked if its presidential candidate doesn’t prevail in a runoff also claimed by his rival, adding further confusion to Egypt’s transition to democracy.
Election officials were fielding challenges by the Brotherhood’s Mohamed Mursi and Ahmed Shafik, who served briefly as Hosni Mubarak’s last premier, as the ousted president was said to be in a coma after being rushed from prison to a military hospital.
The Brotherhood also lashed out at Egypt’s ruling generals after they stripped the presidency of much of its authority and boosted their powers, less than two weeks before they are due to hand over power to the new head of state. The move also stoked investor concern about a recovery in the $240 billion economy and prospects for a $3.2 billion International Monetary Fund loan.
“Every day, we are shocked by a new decision from the military council that is tantamount to overturning all legitimacies -- constitutional legitimacy, popular legitimacy, everything,” Brotherhood spokesman Mahmoud Ghozlan said by phone today. “The people will not accept” any declaration that Shafik has won, he said.
Tens of thousands massed last night in a show of force against the military council’s decree that gave it more sweeping authority. The Islamist-led protest also rejected the court-ordered dissolution of parliament and the military’s newly-minted rights to arrest civilians.
“We’ve seen yesterday how people opposed the constitutional declaration and dissolution of parliament,” Ghozlan said. “If you add to all of this, rigging of their will in the presidential elections, I think there will be a stronger position,” he said, adding that Mursi had a comfortable lead in the race.
Confusion surrounding Mubarak’s health added a new element to the political puzzle. The 84-year-old former leader was in a coma at a military hospital after he was rushed from the prison intensive care unit where he had been held since being sentenced on June 2 to life in prison, Youssri Abdel Razek, a volunteer Mubarak lawyer said by phone.
Egypt’s state-run Middle East News Agency, citing medical officials it didn’t name, reported earlier that Mubarak was “clinically” dead. It said several efforts to revive him using a defibrillator failed.
Since his arrival at prison, the former president’s condition had steadily deteriorated, and took another turn for the worse late yesterday. Prison department spokesman Brigadier-General Mohamed Elewa said Mubarak had to be placed on a ventilator.
Mubarak’s chief lawyer, Farid ElDib, said his client was alive, though he attributed his poor state to the “lack of medical care or treatment” at the prison hospital, the state-run Al-Ahram quoted him as saying today.
Earlier reports of Mubarak’s deteriorating health in prison were met with skepticism by Islamists and by activists such as the April 6 youth group. They said it was a pretext to move a man they blamed for the country’s ills, including unemployment, inflation and poor educational and health care systems, to more comfortable surroundings.
The ruling military, which Mubarak had been a part of before rising to the presidency with the assassination of his predecessor, was described by the Islamists and activists as trying to secure a grip on power.
Ghozlan said the military’s 11th-hour decree, issued shortly after ballot counting began on June 17, was part of a wider push to “militarize the state.” He said he expected protests against the generals to continue to be peaceful.
Under the decree, the military assumed legislative powers until the election of a new parliament. It also ensured its own budget remained beyond public scrutiny and that it could exercise a hand in writing the constitution, as well as vetoing provisions in the document.
Criticism also came from abroad. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, whose Carter Center observed the vote, said he was “deeply troubled by the undemocratic turn that Egypt’s transition has taken.”
The military decree “violates their prior commitment to the Egyptian people to make a full transfer of power to an elected civilian government,” Carter said in a statement e-mailed by the center.
Mursi and Shafik’s campaigns held televised news conferences yesterday, with both claiming they had won about 52 percent of the vote in the runoff.
Election commission chief Farouk Sultan said both claims were premature and that the commission had received numerous challenges from the candidates’ campaigns. While the official results are due to be released tomorrow, Sultan told MENA late yesterday that it would be impossible to issue final results until all the challenges had been vetted.
The potential for a delay could further complicate a race featuring the two most divisive candidates to emerge from a field of 13 candidates in the election’s first round last month. The vote was intended to cap the transition process made possible by Mubarak’s push from power.
The military sought to reassure Egyptians that it would hand over power by the end of June.
“What the military got was legislative power and their privileges and prerogatives guaranteed,” Hani Sabra, a Middle East analyst with Eurasia Group, said by phone. “They got this because they out-maneuvered the Brotherhood.”