Military under attack
CAIRO prepared yesterday for mass protests backed by the Muslim Brotherhood - whose presidential candidate has claimed a vote victory - against the ruling military's move to claim sweeping new powers.
The demonstration, called for by several of the groups that participated in the February 2011 uprising, has been prompted by the military reclaiming legislative power in the wake of a court ruling dissolving the Islamist-led parliament.
The ruling military council has claimed the right to veto the provisions of a new constitution.
There is uncertainty about who won the election, with Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Mursi claiming an early victory.
His rival, former Mubarak prime minister Ahmed Shafiq, has refused to concede.
A confirmed win for Mursi would mark the first time that Islamists have taken the presidency of the Arab world's most populous nation. But Shafiq's campaign has accused the brotherhood of trying to steal victory, calling its claim of a win an "act of piracy" and urging people to wait for the official results, expected tomorrow.
Egypt's state media reported that initial counts showed that Mursi was ahead.
"After the counting was finished in all of Egypt's 27 provinces, indications show that Mohammed Mursi has won 51% and Ahmed Shafiq won 49%," the state-owned Al-Ahram newspaper said on its website.
There were scenes of jubilation at Mursi's Cairo headquarters, where the candidate thanked voters and pledged to work "hand-in-hand with all Egyptians for a better future, freedom, democracy, development and peace".
"We are not seeking vengeance or to settle accounts," he said, adding that he would build a "modern, democratic state" for all Egyptians, Muslims and Christians alike.
Shafiq campaign officials refused to concede victory, saying their figures showed that their man was ahead.
"It's a stolen victory because you can't claim to have won a presidential election while the polling stations are still closing," Shafiq campaign manager Ahmed Sarhan said.
"It's an act of piracy to claim victory using totally false figures," he said, adding that preliminary results obtained by the campaign showed Shafiq "still ahead in the vote, with between 51% and 52%".
Whoever is declared the winner, the country faces the prospect of a showdown between the brotherhood and the ruling military.
"The brotherhood and the military council prepare for the battle of the parliament," the headline of the liberal Wafd newspaper read yesterday.
The brotherhood insists that parliament still has the power to legislate and said on Monday that it would take part in "all popular activities against the constitutional coup [by the military] and the dissolution of parliament, beginning on Tuesday".
The ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has introduced de facto martial law, given itself control of the legislature and state budget, and given itself veto power over a new constitution.
Revolutionary youth movements, which had been split over whether to boycott the election or vote Shafiq out, denounced the declaration as a "coup".
"The military council, with its unconstitutional coup, gave itself [unprecedented] powers. The military council has never and will never recognise popular legitimacy that contradicts it," the Coalition of Revolution Youth said.
The brotherhood has vowed to challenge the constitutional declaration, even as it faces a lawsuit challenging its legitimacy and legal status.