Egyptian vote hit by boycotts and fraud allegations
A further power grab by the army, allegations of voter fraud and a popular boycott yesterday threatened to overshadow the climax of Egypt's long revolution, its first free election for a president.
Few analysts were willing to predict the outcome of the battle between Mohammed Morsi, of the Muslim Brotherhood, and Ahmed Shafiq, a former general and aide to the ousted Hosni Mubarak, despite the Islamist movement's long domination of the Egyptian street.
The Brotherhood said opinion polls showed their man would win a free vote comfortably. But they also claimed that "fake voters" were appearing on polling station lists -- dead people and members of the security forces, who in Egypt are supposed to remain neutral and are disqualified.
"What is happening is a 'soft fraud'," said Mohammed Mustafa, a campaign agent for Mr Morsi in Cairo.
"At the end of the election we will calculate all these examples and see if it's an organised process or just individual cases. If it's fraud not only us but the Egyptian people will react."
Mr Shafiq has also consolidated support outside his core base of old regime supporters and minorities such as Christians who fear the rise of political Islam.
"We need a proper administration now," said Ahmed Abdulsamir, a shopkeeper, reflecting the views of many Egyptians.
The election has been fought amid allegations that the run-off was a conspiracy between the army and the Brotherhood against liberals, none of whose candidates won a run-off place, and of the dissolution of parliament after a court ruling last Thursday.
The army went one step further yesterday, announcing that legislative and budget powers would be handed back to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF).
SCAF will also issue new rules for the formation of the committee to draw up a new constitution. That had also been in the hands of parliament.
The moves give the army the power to dominate the continuing political transition whichever candidate is declared president. The result will be formally announced on June 21 but is likely to be known some time today.
The army's assertion of authority over the last week, de-nounced by many as a coup, has furthered a campaign to boycott the election. Collections of mobile phone photographs of spoiled ballots began to appear on the internet yesterday.
"I'm too confused to choose from the criminal and the coward -- I'm voting for Tahrir Square," wrote Viola Fahmy, an activist, above a picture of her paper with a cross beside both names. (© Daily Telegraph, London)