Islamists Claim Victory In Egypt's Presidential Vote

Over the weekend, Egyptians completed voting in their historic presidential election. The Muslim Brotherhood has declared its candidate the winner, but official results are days away.

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep. Good morning.

Here's one way to summarize the news from Egypt. The candidate associated with Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood claims he won the presidency in a runoff election over the weekend. His opponent claims he won too. And all of the vote counting is happening amid questions about whether the winner will have very much authority anyway. Egypt's generals are the real powers in the country and have remained so even after last year's revolution. And the generals insist they will hand over power to the winner, but they've sharply limited what that power will be.

NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson is on the line from Cairo. She's going to help sort this out. Hi, Soraya.

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: Let's start with the election results. Two days of voting over the weekend. What do you know about who voted how?

NELSON: Well, as you mentioned, the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, Mohammed Morsi, declared he won with more than 52 percent of the vote. But that seems to be slipping according to some state-run media. The state-run Al-Ahram newspaper is reporting 51 percent of the vote went to Morsi, although again, the count is still underway. And of course his rival is disputing that.

INSKEEP: And his rival is Ahmed Shafiq. He's a former prime minister under Hosni Mubarak, the deposed former president, right?

NELSON: Exactly. And he is dismissing the claim that Morsi won. And in fact, his campaign says that they might have gotten as much as 53 percent of the vote. They also say it's too soon to really make any declaration because there's a lot of fraud under investigation, including claims of invisible ink, that apparently pens were being handed out at polling stations, or so the story goes, which were being used to fill out ballots, and then that ink disappears within a few hours. Those claims are being investigated by election officials.

INSKEEP: Well, even as that investigation goes on, and even as the vote counting goes on, is it fair to ask, Soraya, what's the point? Because as you have reported so thoroughly in recently days, the ruling generals - or rather a court, I should say, associated with Mubarak's regime, has dissolved the parliament, and the generals are not saying that they're going to give very much authority to the new president.

NELSON: Well, yes, in fact up until this morning - and so perhaps the generals know something we don't - they were saying they weren't going to leave at the end of the month. Now, at a press conference a short while ago, they in fact did say that they will be leaving on June 30, even though the constitution, the new constitution, is not in place, which is something they said they - that they would not leave until that happened. But they seem to have changed their mind. Having said that, though, they are changing some of the powers that this president will have. This is not going to be a Mubarak presidency in the sense of him - or whoever takes charge being in charge of everything. He'll be able to name the cabinet, including the defense minister, but he won't be able to control the military, he won't be able to declare war without the approval of the military. Even the country's budget is in question. And the generals also said they will be sharing legislative power with the president until a new parliament is named.

INSKEEP: And I guess the generals are free to make up the rules or change the rules like this because there still is no constitution.

NELSON: Absolutely. That constitution is something that is very vital, the military thinks is very vital, because they want to sort of enshrine their powers in it. And certainly it will define what the president does for the country, how the parliament acts, that sort of thing. But even when parliament was in session, they couldn't - nobody could agree on exactly who should serve on the committee drafting that constitution. The first such committee was in fact dissolved because the ruling generals - I should say the courts that have Mubarak-era judges in them - did not have any - let's put it this way - they couldn't agree on - they weren't representative. That's what the courts were saying.

INSKEEP: Very, very briefly, Soraya - how are Egyptians responding to these moves by the generals?

NELSON: Well, they are not very happy. Morsi's people were celebrating in Tahrir Square, but there are many others who are quite stunned and dismayed, especially by the ruling military council actions.

HEBA MORAYEF: But I think the timing is very suspect. You can't really wait and see what the results of the presidential election are and then tailor those duties according to who wins.

NELSON: That's Heba Morayef. She's Egypt researcher for Human Rights Watch, and she's saying that the ruling generals staying in power even behind the scenes wasn't unexpected. But she is distressed that the military would assume so much of the legislative power and other authorities from behind the scenes.

INSKEEP: OK. Soraya, thanks very much.

NELSON: You're welcome, Steve.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson in Cairo.

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