Tensions run high as Egyptians await runoff results |
Valley News Dispatch

Tensions run high as Egyptians await runoff results

A supporter of former prime minister and current presidential candidate Ahmed Shafik hits a defaced poster of the Muslim Brotherhood's presidential candidate Mohamed Morsy with shoes during a rally in support of the Supreme Council for the Armed Forces (SCAF) at Nasr City in Cairo June 23, 2012. Egyptians find out on Sunday whether their next president will be a former military officer or an Islamist from the army's old adversary, the Muslim Brotherhood, after a long week's wait since a vote to pick a successor to the deposed Hosni Mubarak. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

CAIRO – Egypt’s ruling military and the main political party, the Muslim Brotherhood, are engaged in a high-stakes power negotiation, observers say.

The delay until Sunday of an official count from last weekend’s presidential runoff – three days later than first promised -has fed rumors of hard bargaining on whether and how to share power.Both runoff candidates have claimed victory.

The uncertainty and unrest worry many Egyptians. A recent newspaper headline screamed of a looming “massacre of the century.”

In this tense atmosphere, the military has moved boldly to consolidate its hold despite U.S. warnings that $1.3 billion in annual aid could be jeopardized. Unconfirmed rumors late last week told of tanks on highways into the capital.

Meanwhile, the Brotherhood has held massive rallies for its presidential contender, Mohamed Morsy. It warns of a “dangerous face-off” if Ahmed Shafiq, a former air force general and the last prime minister of the ousted Mubarak regime, is declared the winner.

The military council and the Muslim Brotherhood are heatedly dealing behind closed doors and muscle-flexing in public, experts say.

Hani Shukrallah, managing editor of Al Ahram Online, a leading newspaper website, said “psychological warfare is being used by both sides.”

He said the Mubarak-era state intelligence services are managing the meetings and both sides are “exchanging threats.”The Brotherhood, he said, is “using the street” and “milking this opportunity to appear once more as a victim … being oppressed by the police state.”

Although “this looks like a very chaotic transition … I believe we are watching an incredibly structured and orderly pact-making process,” said Joshua Stacher, an Egypt expert and associate professor of political science at Kent State University.

Stacher, author of Adaptable Autocrats: Regime Power in Egypt and Syria, is here to observe the election.

He believes the ruling military council, the Brotherhood and senior statesmen are “in heavy negotiations” to “incorporate” the Brotherhood into the government.

Shukrallah said the generals who have ruled Egypt since last year’s uprising “are surprised” by the Brotherhood’s intransigence.

“(They) are saying that when the Brotherhood were strong, they negotiated – now they are weak and they don’t have popular support and they are being confrontational.”

“I have never seen the Brotherhood so disliked so intensely,” said Shukrallah, author of Egypt, The Arabs and The World.Egyptians increasingly criticize the Brotherhood for being ineffectual and preoccupied with Islamic doctrine since winning control of parliament in January.

In the past two weeks, Egypt’s high court dissolved parliament, citing electoral irregularities, and the justice ministry expanded military-police arrest powers.

The military has issued directives severely restricting presidential authority, stacking a national defense council with generals, and giving itself the authority to appoint a constitutional assembly.

The Brotherhood and its ultra-religious Salafi partners in parliament previously packed the same constitution-writing panel.

Stacher predicts the Brotherhood’s Morsy has been told to “shut up” about parliament’s dissolution and the military’s power grabs if he wants the presidency. Otherwise, “it is going to be Shafiq” who wins.

Al Ahram Online reported Saturday that a deal between the two sides could require the military to accept holding new elections for just a third of parliamentary seats; the Brotherhood would accept the military’s limitations on presidential authority.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.