Egyptian election officials said Wednesday that they were indefinitely delaying release of presidential runoff election results, fanning fears that last year's pro-democracy revolution is being hijacked by loyalists of deposed President Hosni Mubarak who still control the military, courts and many influential institutions.
Word that the election results would be delayed until officials can sort through hundreds of complaints and challenges to last weekend's voting followed moves over the last week by vestiges of the Mubarak government, including the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, to weaken the powers of the presidency.
The military's claim to the right to draft the national budget and control aspects of foreign relations, including veto power over the declaration of war, drew thousands of angry demonstrators back to Cairo's Tahrir Square on Tuesday and Wednesday to protest more than a year after Mubarak's 30-year reign ended with his ouster.
Both presidential candidates in last weekend's runoff, the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsi and Mubarak ally Ahmed Shafik, have claimed they won a majority of the vote. Official election results were to have been released Thursday, and the delay announced by the national election commission was likely to cast Egyptians into deeper turmoil.
Pro-democracy activists who led last year's revolt against Mubarak with a spirited occupation of Tahrir Square have already been disappointed by the polarizing emergence of Morsi and Shafik as the finalists from among 13 hopefuls for the presidency. Many of the street demonstrators felt unrepresented by either Morsi, who they fear would fail to embrace civil rights, or Shafik, a symbol of the Mubarak era.
Announcements about Mubarak's health have added to the uncertainty afflicting Egyptians. State media declared the 84-year-old former president "clinically dead" late Tuesday after he reportedly suffered a stroke and lost consciousness. But government officials swiftly denied those reports, saying he was improving after being transferred to a military hospital from the prison facility where he has been detained since his conviction this month for complicity in the deaths of hundreds of protesters during last year's rebellion.
-- Carol J. Williams in Los Angeles
Photo: Egyptian protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Wednesday shout slogans against the military's seizure of powers from the next presidency. Credit: Mohamed Messara / European Pressphoto Agency