Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

In Egypt, a Winner Said to Be near Presidential Election Results Expected to Be Released Today

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

In Egypt, a Winner Said to Be near Presidential Election Results Expected to Be Released Today

Article excerpt


The commission overseeing Egypt's first competitive presidential election will declare an official winner today, the panel said Saturday, amid growing conviction that the announcement has become a bargaining chip in a negotiation for power between the ruling generals and the Muslim Brotherhood.

"As the beginning of a transition to democracy, it is a disaster," said Omar Ashour, a political scientist at the University of Exeter and the Brookings Doha Center, who is here in Cairo. But, he added, the disaster began the day before the presidential runoff, when the military dissolved the Brotherhood-led Parliament and seized legislative power.

"The generals have their fingers on the reset button if they don't like the outcome," Mr. Ashour said.

While the Brotherhood may have more legitimacy and the ability to bring hundreds of thousands into the streets, "the generals have the guns and tanks and armored vehicles," he said. "We are playing realpolitik at the moment."

Television talk shows have obsessed over fragmentary reports of conversations between Brotherhood leaders and the ruling generals, mainly a face-to-face meeting last weekend between the Brotherhood's parliamentary leader, Saad el-Katatni, and Gen. Sami Hafez Enan.

But a Brotherhood spokesman, Jihad el-Haddad, said Saturday that there had been no direct meetings since then, when the Brotherhood made its demands for the reinstatement of Parliament and the empowerment of an elected president.

What is more, he said, the Brotherhood agreed Friday that from now on any talks with the generals would be conducted by a new "national front" it had formed with more secular or liberal advocates of democracy. In so doing, the Brotherhood is acceding to arguments for greater collaboration and openness that have been for years advanced by its more liberal leaders.

The members of the commission of judges overseeing the vote -- all appointed by former President Hosni Mubarak -- have said they delayed the announcement of the official results to investigate allegations of fraud from both sides. But the delay implicitly threatens the Brotherhood, the 84-year-old Islamist group that is Egypt's best-organized political force.

A public ballot count showed its candidate, Mohammed Morsi, ahead, with 52 percent of the vote. His opponent, Ahmed Shafiq, a former air force general and Mubarak's last prime minister, has also declared himself the winner.

Both the Brotherhood and the generals have been fairly open about their bargaining positions. Indeed, the two sides appeared to have reached a rough accord on power-sharing just a few months ago, before it disintegrated in angry disputes over the transitional government and presidential elections.

"Now each side feels like the other did not live up to its end of the agreement," said Michael Hanna, a researcher at the Century Foundation in New York. …

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