Cairo yesterday braced for protests against the ruling military council’s bid to grab new powers, with the Muslim Brotherhood set to take part after claiming a win for its candidate in presidential elections.
The demonstration, called for by several of the groups that participated in an uprising in February last year, comes after the military reclaimed legislative power following a court ruling dissolving the Islamist-led parliament.
The move, which came in a constitutional declaration that also saw the ruling military council claim the ability to veto articles in any new constitution, has overshadowed the country’s presidential poll.
However, uncertainty also reigns over the winner of that vote, with Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Mursi claiming an early victory, while his rival, former Egyptian prime minister Ahmed Shafiq, has refused to concede.
Egypt’s state media reported that initial counts showed Mursi ahead.
“After the counting was finished in all of Egypt’s 27 provinces, indications show that Mohammed Mursi has won 51 percent and Ahmed Shafiq won 49 percent,” the state-owned al-Ahram newspaper said on its Web site.
The Brotherhood insists the parliament still has the power to legislate and said on Monday it would take part in “all popular activities against the constitutional coup and the dissolution of parliament, beginning on Tuesday.”
The ruling military body, the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF), has introduced de facto martial law, given itself control of the legislature and state budget and also granted itself veto power on a new constitution.
Meanwhile, the US urged the SCAF on Monday to move swiftly on plans to transfer full power to the elected civilian government and suggested failure to do so would prompt a review of US ties, which includes billions of dollars in military and civilian aid.
Both the US Department of State and the Pentagon — which oversees the close military links between the two countries — voiced concerns over moves by Egypt’s generals to tighten their grip on power despite the presidential vote.
The military power grab represents a dilemma for US President Barack Obama’s administration, which publicly backed the revolution that toppled longtime Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak last year, but also sees the Egyptian military as a crucial regional security partner.
At the same time, some in Washington may share the Egyptian military’s wariness of the Brotherhood.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Egypt was at a critical juncture and the US was “concerned by decisions that appear to prolong the military’s hold on power.”
“We call on the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to restore popular and international confidence in the democratic transition process by following through on their stated commitments,” Nuland told a news briefing.
The US, the main financial supporter of Egypt’s military, would hold the SCAF to its promises for an inclusive constitutional drafting process, the timely seating of a democratically elected parliament, and the swift, permanent transfer of power to a civilian government, Nuland said.
“This is an evolving situation that we are watching closely. The decisions that are taken in this crucial period are naturally going to have an impact on the nature of our engagement with the government and with the SCAF moving forward,” she said.