Muslim Brotherhood claims victory
Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Mursi claimed victory yesterday in Egypt's first free presidential vote, as the military handed itself sweeping powers in a move denounced by activists as a "coup."
The document issued by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces grants the body legislative powers after a top court on Thursday ordered the dissolution of the Islamist-dominated parliament.
A confirmed win by Mursi would mark the first time Islamists are elected to the presidency in the Arab World's most populous nation, but the military rulers' moves to consolidate power ahead of the final results have rendered any future president toothless.
The Islamists' rival Ahmed Shafiq, a former air force chief and ex-prime minister to ousted president Hosni Mubarak, disputed the Brotherhood's victory announcement, labelling it "bizarre behaviour."
State television too reported that initial counts showed Mursi in the lead.
There were scenes of jubilation at Mursi's headquarters, where the candidate himself thanked Egyptians for their votes in brief remarks after the Brotherhood said he had won 52 percent of the vote.
Mursi pledged to work to "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 Egypt's citizens, Muslims and Christians.
But a Shafiq campaign official said their figures showed that their candidate, who served as prime minister to deposed dictator Hosni Mubarak, leading in the count.
"We reject it completely," Mahmud Baraka, said of the Brotherhood's claim. "We are astonished by this bizarre behaviour which amounts to a hijacking of the election results."
Mursi's supporters screamed with excitement, some wiping tears from their eyes. Several hundred held a victory rally in Cairo's iconic Tahrir Square, the hub of protests that Mubarak in February 2011.
The jubilation was overshadowed however by a looming showdown between the Brotherhood and the ruling military, which issued a new constitutional document shortly after polls closed on Sunday granting it sweeping powers.
"The military hands power to the military," read the headline of the independent daily al-Masry al-Youm.
"A president with no powers," read the huge headline of the independent al-Shorouk.
Revolutionary youth movements denounced the declaration as a "coup" while the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party said it rejected any bid by the military to retake legislative power.
"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 in a statement.
"The next phase is a very difficult phase," senior Mursi campaign official Khaled al-Qazaz told AFP.
"It already started with the military trying to take all power, which requires all Egyptians to continue the momentum of the revolution to make sure the transition is complete."
The document gives SCAF veto power over the text of a new permanent constitution, and states that no new parliamentary vote will be held until after a permanent constitution is approved.
The Brotherhood called the interim charter "null and unconstitutional," setting itself on a collision course with the military.