Both Presidential Candidates Claim Victory In Egypt

In Egypt, Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood seems headed for victory in the presidential run-off election. But the latest announcements from the Supreme Military Council could strip him of most of his power.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block hosting all week from NPR West in Southern California.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel in Washington, D.C. Our first story this hour comes from Egypt. The official results are not yet tallied for Egypt's first free presidential election, and already both candidates are claiming victory in it. One is a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. Its members were often imprisoned under former President Hosni Mubarak. The other candidate is Mubarak's last prime minister. He's close to the ruling military council. As NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports from Cairo, no matter who wins, the military council appears determined to stay in charge.

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: That the generals were uncomfortable with the results of recent elections was evident as they pushed for a new constitution curbing the civilian government's powers while enshrining their own.

MAJOR GENERAL MAMDOUH SHAHIN: (Foreign language spoken)

NELSON: At a news conference, Major General Mamdouh Shahin said he was disappointed the new constitution won't be finished before the military council hands over power to the new president on June 30th. But Shahin also made it clear the generals would stay involved in Egyptian affairs even after they return to the barracks.

SHAHIN: (Foreign language spoken)

NELSON: For one thing, Shahin says the ruling military council will share legislative authority with the new president. That authority rested with the first freely elected parliament in Egyptian history until last week. The Islamist-dominated body was dissolved by a high Egyptian court with Mubarak-era judges who based their ruling on election irregularities. State-run media report that a new parliament won't be elected until a month after a new constitution is approved in a nationwide referendum, which could be as late as October.

The military said that it will also appoint its own drafting committee to write that constitution if the latest one picked by the defunct parliament is again ruled invalid by the courts.

MAJOR GENERAL MOHAMMED EL-ASSAR: (Foreign language spoken)

NELSON: Yet Major General Mohammed el-Assar was adamant that the new president would have real power. He will be able to appoint his own Cabinet, including the defense minister, the general added. But the decree the military council issued hours before the news conference made it clear that much of what the president does will have to be signed off by the military. That is worrying to many Egyptians who don't believe it when the generals say they are eager to depart. Heba Morayef is the Egypt researcher for Human Rights Watch.

HEBA MORAYEF: Everything we've seen over the last week seems to say that the military is here to stay and is not planning to hand over power to civilians at the end of June.

NELSON: Near a polling station in eastern Cairo, voter Ahmed Wahid is equally suspicious.

AHMED WAHID: (Foreign language spoken)

NELSON: Wahid, who is 39 and unemployed, cast his vote for the brotherhood's Mohammed Morsi. But he adds what's the point if he ends up being a symbol without any real power?

NABILA BAYOUMI: (Foreign language spoken)

NELSON: Another voter, Nabila Bayoumi, agrees. The 46-year-old housewife says she voted for retired air force General Ahmed Shafiq for only one reason, his promise to provide jobs and improve life for Egyptians. She adds she'll be very angry if he isn't allowed to do so. Other voters gave up on the run-off altogether even before the generals made their announcement.

At this polling station in Old Cairo, election workers laughed as they read some of the things people wrote to invalidate the ballots they cast as a form of protest. Most of what they wrote is too vulgar to repeat on air. Meanwhile, election officials say that the winner will be announced by Thursday. Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News, Cairo.

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