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Egypt Islamists Call for Protest Over Army’s Power Move

Egypt Delays Results of Presidential Vote Adding to Uncertainty
Thosuands of Egyptian supporters of the Mulsim Brotherhood presidential candidate Mohammed Mursi wave their national flag as they gather in Cairo's Tahrir Square on June 19, 2012 to protest against the ruling military's bid to grab new powers, as both presidential candidates Mursi and his rival former prime minister Ahmed Shafiq claimed victory in a historic vote. Photographer: Marwan Naamani/AFP/GettyImages

Egypt’s ruling generals warned they are willing to use force to prevent chaos as protesters led by the Muslim Brotherhood gathered in Cairo to condemn the expansion of army powers.

The military council said on state television that orders issued “in the name of the people” must be respected, defending a decree last week that widened its authority at the expense of the presidency, and a court ruling dissolving parliament. The council said it’s “not justified” to claim victory in the presidential election before official results.

The Brotherhood’s Mohamed Mursi, who declared himself the winner over former premier Ahmed Shafik hours after polls closed on June 17, told reporters in Cairo today that he rejected the army’s orders. Shafik has also said he expects to win. Official results, initially due yesterday, haven’t been announced.

The army’s statement comes as thousands gathered in the capital’s Tahrir Square, waving Egyptian flags, after Friday prayers to denounce the army’s new powers, as well as the dissolution of parliament and measures allowing the military to arrest civilians. Al Jazeera television said there were similar demonstrations across the country.

‘Peaceful Protests’

Mursi said peaceful protests will continue and the military’s decree expanding its powers would require approval in a referendum. Mursi said he accepts the court ruling that some of the laws under which parliament was elected are invalid, but rejects the right of the military to dissolve the elected assembly.

The Brotherhood and other Islamist and secular groups say the army’s acts amount to a coup and have derailed the transition to democracy after the revolt against Hosni Mubarak last year. The delay in election results has added to the concern, which the generals have sought to allay by reiterating a pledge to cede power this month. Egypt’s benchmark dollar bonds tumbled today, heading for their biggest loss this year.

The military’s decrees “are the latest indication yet that there won’t be a meaningful handover to civilian rule,” Human Rights Watch’s deputy Middle East director, Joe Stork, said in an e-mailed statement. He said the army’s newly issued authority to arrest civilians goes “far beyond their powers under Hosni Mubarak.”

Fraud Allegations

Egypt’s election commission said on its website that it is examining allegations of fraud by both campaigns. They have filed more than 400 complaints, such as voters casting multiple ballots or using the names of dead people, the state-run Middle East News Agency reported.

The results may be released on June 23 or 24, said the commission’s secretary-general, Hatem Bagato, according to the state-run Ahram Gate website.

The U.S.-based Carter Center, which monitored the vote, said in an e-mailed statement that its observers didn’t find “evidence of major or systematic flaws in the voting and counting processes.”

Egypt’s economy has struggled to recover since the revolt last year, as tourists and investors stayed away. Political tensions have stalled efforts to negotiate a $3.2 billion loan accord with the International Monetary Fund. The past week’s turmoil has left the country in a “no-win situation” which is “the worst scenario for investors,” said Said Hirsh, an economist at Capital Economics in London.

‘Major Social Unrest’

Egypt’s dollar bonds maturing in 2020 extended their slide today, pushing yields up 44 basis points to 7.8 percent at 3:45 p.m. in London. Credit default risk rose to the highest since 2008 yesterday.

“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 in an e-mailed response to questions. If Mursi wins, he will “have very little power” and “it is unlikely that any new economic policy will transpire.”

Shafik, a former air force commander who briefly served as premier in the last weeks of Mubarak’s rule, ran on a law-and-order platform, highlighting the deterioration of security since the revolt last year. He told a press conference late yesterday that he is confident of winning, and accused the Brotherhood of pre-empting the count and trying to pressure the election committee through protests.

Christian Deputy

Mursi portrayed himself as the “revolutionary” candidate. He won backing from some secular activist groups, such as the April 6 youth movement, which played a prominent role in the revolt against Mubarak and have been critical of Islamist tactics since then. He met with April 6 and other activists before today’s announcement.

Mursi said today that he may appoint an independent premier and nominate vice-presidents from outside the Brotherhood’s party. They may include a woman and a Christian, he said.

The army decree, issued shortly after ballot counting began, was part of a wider push to “militarize the state,” according to Ghozlan.

The measure keeps the military budget exempt from civilian scrutiny, strips the president of his title of supreme commander of the armed forces, and gives the generals control over the writing of a new constitution.

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