x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Egypt waits to learn its fate

Protests are almost certain, no matter who is declared the winner of Egypt's presidential elections.

Egyptian supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood presidential candidate Mohammed Morsi hold his portrait and wave national flags during a demonstration in Cairo's Tahrir square yesterday.
Egyptian supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood presidential candidate Mohammed Morsi hold his portrait and wave national flags during a demonstration in Cairo's Tahrir square yesterday.

CAiRO // The delay in the release of results from the presidential elections has extended a national waiting game, with the potential for protests looming no matter what the result of the run-off vote.

Egypt's presidential elections commission announced yesterday that it required extra time due to the flood of appeals from both Mohammed Morsi and Ahmed Shafiq's campaigns regarding allegations of electoral fraud.

The commission, which was initially expected to have the results yesterday, did not set a new deadline.

"The committee has not completed the verification of a total of 400 electoral violation reports submitted by the two presidential candidates," said an electoral committee member Tarek Shibl. "Most probably the announcement of the election results will be delayed a day or two but nothing is final yet."

Both Mr Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood's candidate, and his rival Mr Shafiq, a Mubarak-era prime minister, have declared themselves the victors, and both have alleged widespread misdeeds by their competition.

Accusations of pre-marked ballots and an election-day rumour that thousands of pens with fading temporary ink were being shipped in to fool certain voters into accidentally spoiling their ballots are being taken seriously.

Local reports said a government-owned printing house in Cairo is being investigated for shipping out ballots marked for Mr Morsi. Al Masry Al Youm newspaper, quoting a "security source", alleged that nearly two million pre-marked ballots were printed in the Ameriya publishing house.

Ameriya workers protested against the allegations yesterday and temporarily blocked the Nile-side Corniche.

The presidential vote is just one of the fronts on which the country's historic political forces - the Muslim Brotherhood and the security state - are doing battle, while secular activists mostly watch on.

A secondary stand-off is in progress over the fate of the Brotherhood-controlled parliament. The People's Assembly was dissolved a week ago on an electoral technicality. The Brotherhood has challenged the legitimacy of the ruling, calling it a politicised attempt by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (Scaf) to curb its ballot box authority.

Scaf, which inherited legislative power according to the court order, ordered the Parliament building to be shut, barring elected MPs from entering. But the Brotherhood has threatened to convene a session, raising fears of a confrontation.

Then there is the constitution. A constitutional decree by Scaf on Sunday established the military as essentially a fourth branch of government, free from presidential oversight. It also gave Scaf control over naming the members of the constitution-drafting committee.

All these issues will be on the agenda today, when the Brotherhood has called for a "Return of Legitimacy" protest in Tahrir to pressure Scaf on multiple fronts.

The Islamist organisation wants a public show of strength and crowd size will be worth watching.

In addition to proving they can mobilise their own base, Muslim Brotherhood leaders will want to draw support from secularist groups.

"We are fighting a legal struggle via the establishment and a popular struggle in the streets," said Brotherhood official Mohammed Al Katatni.

"This is the ceiling. I see the continuation of the struggle in this way."

Mr Katatni made reference to the Algerian civil war of the 1990s that was sparked by Islamists being blocked from an electoral victory by the military.

"What happened in Algeria cannot be repeated in Egypt," he said "The Egyptian people are different and not armed."