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The confusion about who won the election has led to competing demonstrations in the streets as supporters of both candidates are celebrating victory. Most observers believe the vote is very close, but that the Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Morsi has eked out a narrow victory. A count of individual polling stations, which announced their results on Monday, show Morsi getting 52% to Shafiq’s 48%. On the other hand, Shafiq’s camp has announced the former prime minister received 51.5% of the vote.
Both Shafiq and Morsi filed hundreds of complaints of election fraud with Shafiq claiming that the Brotherhood committed “systemic violations” of the law. Shafiq’s camp also accused the opposition of ballot stuffing, and said that the Brotherhood bribed voters with money and food. “The organized and persistent election fraud by the Muslim Brotherhood proves they … only talk the talk and never walk the walk of liberal democracy,” said Shafiq’s campaign.
The Brotherhood alleged bribes and ballot stuffing on the part of Shafiq supporters and flatly denied wrongdoing on its part. Shafiq is laying the groundwork for protest if he proves to be the loser, while Morsi’s campaign has said the only way their candidate could lose is if the military committed massive election fraud.
While the election results will be important, the real drama in Egypt is the face-off between the military and the Muslim Brotherhood over the generals’ decrees that have destroyed the Brothers’ power base in parliament and effectively sidelined them when the new constitution is written. The military will appoint the members of the constitutional drafting committee, who will then create rules for new parliamentary elections. It appears that the military has checkmated the Brotherhood whose own power grabs in parliament, for the presidency, and in appointing a majority-Islamist committee to draft the new constitution forced the military to act. It should not be forgotten that the Muslim Brotherhood originally promised to only run in 33% of parliamentary districts and that it would not put up a candidate for president. The Brotherhood reneged on both promises and not only frightened liberals and secularists but angered ordinary Egyptians.
The Brotherhood claims that it will protest the SCAF decrees peacefully. But a little noticed ruling by the military last week before the Supreme Court verdict that dissolved parliament gave the police and military broad powers to arrest civilians and try them in military courts. This effectively re-established martial law in the country, and with it, it gave authorities tools that can be used by the army to effectively squelch the kind of mass demonstrations that toppled Mubarak.
SCAF has played its hand, laying its cards on the table and daring the Islamists to either raise or fold. The Brotherhood has been playing this game for decades and, depending on the outcome of the presidential election, might call for a new deal — one that might see the group partnering with the military in an uneasy power-sharing arrangement. Or, the Islamists might go “all in” and call on their supporters and ordinary Egyptians to fill Tahrir Square to overflowing and pressure the military to back off or suffer the fate of their former boss who clings to life in a Cairo hospital, unconscious and unaware of the high stakes both sides are playing for.
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