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Egypt News — Presidential Elections

Egypt is the most populous country in the Arab world, and its revolution in February 2011 was the capstone event of the Arab Spring, inspiring demonstrators in Libya, Syria and elsewhere.

But in June 2012, a series of events threw the country’s troubled transition to democracy deeper into confusion as Egypt’s two most powerful forces — the military establishment and the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist group — appeared headed for a showdown.

For decades the Islamist group had been the primary opposition to the military dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak. When the unrest of the Arab Spring came to Egypt in January 2011, it was young liberal activists who ignited the protests, but it was the Brotherhood’s decision to join that gave them critical mass. Yet it was the military that ousted Mr. Mubarak the following month and took direct control.

The generals were initially hailed initially as the nation’s heroes, a feeling that gradually turned to dismay as questions arose over whether it truly intended hand over power. When the Brotherhood took control in January 2012 of the nation’s first freely elected Parliament, it was unclear whether the result would be a compromise or collision with the military.

But by June, when the Brotherhood’s candidate, Mohamed Morsi, was set to face off against Ahmed Shafik, a retired Air Force general, in a presidential runoff vote, matters began to come to a head. First, Mr. Mubarak was convicted of complicity in the deaths of protesters during the revolution that led to his ouster in February 2011. He was sentenced to life in prison.

Then, days before the runoff vote, martial law was reimposed by the military council that ousted Mr. Mubarak and has ruled since then, adding to speculation that it would balk at handing power over to Mr. Morsi if he won.

The country’s highest court stepped in with two politically charged rulings. First, they found that a law passed by parliament in May banning former regime figures — like Mr. Shafik — from running for office was unconstitutional, ending a threat to his candidacy.

At the same time, the court, a panel of judges from the Mubarak era, ordered the country’s new Parliament dissolved. It upheld a ruling by a lower court that the elections had been conducted illegally when candidates running on party slates were allowed to contest the one-third of Parliamentary seats that had been set aside for independents.

The rulings were quickly condemned as a “coup” by Islamists, liberals and scholars. The Brotherhood, which controlled just under half of Parliament, contested the ruling, saying it was the work of the military regime. But the following day, on the eve of the presidential elections, the military council formally dissolved Parliament and stationed security forces outside it with orders to bar lawmakers from entering.

Islamist Candidate Wins; Military Tightens Grasp on Power

On June 18, Egyptian news organizations declared Mr. Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood the winner of the country’s first competitive presidential race just hours after the ruling military council issued an interim constitution granting itself broad power over the future government, all but eliminating the president’s authority in an apparent effort to guard against just such a victory.

The military’s new charter is the latest in a series of swift steps that the generals have taken to tighten their grasp on power just at the moment when they had promised to hand over to elected civilians the authority that they assumed on the ouster of Hosni Mubarak last year. Their charter gives them control of all laws and the national budget, immunity from any oversight and the power to veto a declaration of war.

After dissolving the Brotherhood-led Parliament elected four months ago, and locking out its lawmakers, the night of the election generals also seized control of the process of writing a permanent constitution. State news media reported that the generals had picked a 100-member panel to draft it.

Though final results were not available, Brotherhood supporters called the apparent victory by the Islamist candidate, Mr. Morsi, a rebuke to the military’s power grab.

Mr. Morsi thanked God, who, he said, “guided Egypt to this straight path, the path of freedom and democracy.” He pledged to represent all Egyptians, including those who had voted against him. And he made a special profession of support for the rights of members of Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority, many of whom had rallied against him out of fear of the Brotherhood.

The military’s shutdown of the Parliament has turned the race into something close to a life or death struggle for the Brotherhood. It demoralized Egypt’s Islamists and democrats alike, and at the same time energized Mr. Shafik’s supporters. And the sudden possibility that the revolt that defined the Arab Spring could end in a restoration of military-backed autocracy has again captivated the region.

Conflicting Reports on Mubarak’s Health

Hosni Mubarak’s health has been a source of constant speculation and suspicion since his imprisonment.

On June 19, conflicting reports about Mr. Mubarak’s deteriorating health began to circulate, including one that declared him “clinically dead,” just as the military council was attempting to extend its hold on state power indefinitely in the face of growing street protests demanding it cede authority to Mr. Morsi, the newly elected president, and reinstate the dissolved parliament. Egyptian officials, the state news agency and official media said he had been removed from the prison to a hospital after a stroke and heart attack had left him in a coma, near death and dependent on artificial life support.

But the next day, one of Mr. Mubarak’s lawyers contradicted what he called false reports in Egypt’s state-run media that the imprisoned former president had nearly died, insisting that Mr. Mubarak simply fell down in the prison bathroom.

What really happened, the lawyer said, was that Mr. Mubarak had suffered a fall in the prison bathroom, which resulted in a blood clot on his neck, and that he had been removed from the prison at 5 p.m. — long before the reports of his near death began to appear.

The new account from the lawyer, Youssri Abdel Razeq, raised new questions not only about Mr. Mubarak’s condition but about possible motives within the military-led government that has been in charge since Mr. Mubarak was deposed in the Egyptian revolution in 2011.

Recent Developments

June 20 Egypt’s election commission injected new volatility into the country’s growing political and constitutional crisis, deciding to delay its final determination of who had won the presidential runoff election one day before the scheduled announcement. The delay came as Egyptians were still grappling with confusion over the health of the imprisoned former president, Hosni Mubarak. The day before, Egyptian officials and state media had reported him near death, but this account was contradicted by Mr. Mubarak’s lawyer, who insisted that he simply had fallen down in the prison bathroom.

June 19 Government media said Hosni Mubarak was on life support at a military hospital in Cairo after being declared “clinically dead” by doctors. After suffering a stroke in prison, Mr. Mubarak, 84, was moved to a hospital. Doctors said they were unable to revive him after he went into cardiac arrest, state news media said.

June 18 Egyptian news organizations declared Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood the winner of the country’s first competitive presidential race just hours after the ruling military council issued an interim constitution granting itself broad power over the future government, all but eliminating the president’s authority in an apparent effort to guard against just such a victory.

June 17 Egyptians turned out at the polls in lower-than-expected numbers on the second day of the runoff to choose their first president since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak, a sign of low morale as military rulers tightened their grip on the government. The low turnout may also reflect dissatisfaction with the choice of candidates: Ahmed Shafik, a stalwart of Mr. Mubarak who promised to restore order and thwart the rise of an Islamist theocracy, or Mohamed Morsi, a veteran of the once-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood campaigning as a defender of the revolution against a return of the Mubarak-era autocracy.

June 15 The country’s military rulers formally dissolved Parliament and security forces were stationed around the building on orders to bar anyone, including lawmakers, from entering the chambers without official notice. The Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist group that dominates the Parliament, said it disputes the court ruling that found Parliamentary elections to have been illegally conducted, and the court’s authority to dissolve the legislature.

June 14 Egypt’s highest court ruled that Ahmed Shafik, the last prime minister to serve under Hosni Mubarak, can stay in the presidential race. It also ruled that Parliament had to be dissolved, because a third of lawmakers had been illegally elected, forcing a re-vote in a potential blow to Islamists who dominate the legislature.

June 13 The military-led government issued a decree reimposing martial law, adding to speculation that the generals might retain control beyond the scheduled handing over of power after the presidential runoff election.

June 4 The presidential candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood and two popular rivals eliminated before the runoff called for further street protests until Egypt’s current military rulers enforce legislation disqualifying the other remaining candidate, former President Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister, Ahmed Shafik. Mohamed Morsi of the Brotherhood issued the statement with Hamdeen Sabahi, a leftist who narrowly trailed Mr. Shafik in the first round, and Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, a moderate former Brotherhood leader who came in next with about 18 percent of the vote.

June 2 Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s deposed president, along with his former interior minister, was found guilty of being an accessory to murder for failing to stop the killing of unarmed demonstrators during the uprising in January 2011 that ended his nearly 30-year rule. Mr. Mubarak was sentenced to life in prison.

May 28 The election commission confirmed that Ahmed Shafik, the former prime minister and a former air force general, will face Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood in the runoff scheduled for June 16 and 17 to choose Egypt’s first freely elected president.

May 25 The Islamist candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood appeared set to face former President Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister in a runoff to become Egypt’s first freely elected president, several independent vote counts concluded.

May 23 Egyptians went to the polls to choose their first freely elected president, hoping to recapture the promise of a popular uprising that defined the Arab Spring, end 15 chaotic months of military rule and perhaps shape the character of political Islam across the region.

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