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Brotherhood claims Egypt presidency win amidst army power grab

PTI 18 Jun 2012, 18:21:36 IST
Cairo, Jun 18: Egypt today appeared to be headed towards its first radical Islamic president with Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Mursi declaring victory in the poll runoff, but the ruling military issued an interim constitution making clear that the Generals' plan to keep control for now.

Though official results would be announced tomorrow, the Brotherhood released a tally that showed Mursi had nearly 52 per cent of the votes to defeat fallen dictator's Hosni Mubarak's last prime minister Ahmed Shafiq, who had about 48 per cent votes in what state TV described as a “very close race”.

The count, al-Arabiya TV said, was based on results announced by the election officials at individual polling centres.

If Mursi's victory is confirmed in the official results, it would be the first win of an Islamist as head of state, in a wave of pro-democracy uprising in the Arab world.  But the military's last minute power grab raised the prospects of a confrontation.

In an overnight twist in Egypt's march to democracy, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which has ruled the country since the uprising, issued a decree setting strict limits on powers of the new head of state.

The new decree came close on the heels of dissolution of Islamist-led parliament.  But as the possibilities of a Brotherhood win emerged, a senior member of the military council, announced that the Generals will hand over the power to the newly elected president at the end of the month.

Egypt's official news agency MENA quoted Maj Gen Mohammed al-Assar as saying that the transfer of power will take place in a “grand ceremony”, but gave no exact date.

Hours after voting closed in Egypt's presidential run off, Mursi declared victory over Shafiq, an air force man. 

At a press conference held at the Brotherhood headquarters, Mursi paid homage to the martyrs of the revolution that ousted Mubarak, and promised that there would be no settling of accounts.

“I will be a brother and servant to all Egyptians,” said Mursi, flanked by the Freedom and Justice Party chief Essam El-Erian, former parliamentary speaker Saad El-Katatni and FJP MP Saad El-Husseini.

He vowed to establish a just civilian country and saluted “the revolution's ‘martyrs', the revolutionaries and those who said ‘Yes' to me as well as those who said ‘No' to me.” “We promise to build a democratic and modern state with a constitution,” he said as supporters broke out singing the national anthem.

The rival camp of Shafiq immediately contradicted Mursi's claims and criticised the Brotherhood for declaring premature victory.

But the Brotherhood's euphoria was punctured by the late night dramatic announced Addendum to the military-authored March 2011 Constitutional Declaration, which gave have the ruling SCAF unfettered powers and diminished the role of the in-coming president.

Under the new decree, which was denounced by the Liberals and Islamists as a “military coup”, the new president will have no authority over the military council. The president will not be able to change the minister of defence or make any changes to the military council. 

Article 53 B of the amended declaration stipulates that - until the new constitution is drafted - the incumbent SCAF members are solely in charge of the armed forces and all their matters, including hiring military leaders and extending their tenures.

It also implies that the president can declare a state of war only upon after obtaining the approval of the military council.

The president also can only use the armed forces to contain domestic unrest only through the consent of the SCAF.  The revised Constitutional Declaration, which was already ratified upon being published in Egypt's official gazette, is to be publicly announced by the SCAF.