Egypt's Election Commission says it has delayed Thursday's planned announcement of the results of a runoff presidential vote while it continues to review appeals from the two candidates, hiking tension as allegations of fraud mounted.
The commission said Wednesday that judges are still looking into some 400 complaints of alleged campaign violations and disputed vote counting submitted by Mohammed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, and his rival, former prime minister Ahmed Shafiq.
No new date to announce a winner was given.
On top of the potentially explosive election dispute looms renewed uncertainty over the latest health scare of 84-year-old former President Hosni Mubarak, who was ousted in Egypt's uprising last year and is now serving a life prison sentence.
The state news agency reported overnight that Mubarak was near death and put on a respirator after suffering a stroke. He was transferred to a military hospital from the Cairo prison hospital where he has been kept since his June 2 conviction for failing to stop the killing of protesters during the uprising.
Security officials said Wednesday the ousted leader was in a coma and off life support and that his heart and other vital organs were functioning. A later report in The New York Times quoted a lawyer for the ex-leader as saying Mubarak had only fallen down in the prison bathroom.
There have been more complaints about the presidential runoff than any election since Mubarak's ouster. But foreign and local monitors say the violations they observed were not serious or large-scale enough to question the legality of the process.
An unofficial tally released Wednesday by a coalition of independent judges showed Mr. Morsi with 13,238,335 votes compared to 12,351,310 for Mr. Shafiq.
Aides to the Islamist Brotherhood's candidate said Mr. Morsi received 52 percent to Mr. Shafiq's 48 percent. The Shafiq camp countered that the former air force commander won with 51.5 percent of the vote.
Some Mubarak supporters, including Tanya El Ossify, gathered outside the Armed Forces Hospital, where the ex-president was taken.
“I came here today to say that Mubarak is a great man. He fought to bring peace to Egypt. Everyone is thinking about the money (that anti-Mubarak protesters say the president has allegedly stolen) and forgot about his great history. They forgot that he brought victory (in the 1973 Arab-Israeli War) to Egypt.”
Another supporter warned Egyptians would soon regret Mubarak's ouster.
“Do you think that Egypt is going to live in peace like we did before? No, this time has passed and you will miss the days of President Mubarak''
Many Egyptians Wednesday also gathered in Tahrir Square, a central point of the protests that drove Mubarak from power last year. Ali Mohamed Ali was among Egyptians who looked to move on from the Mubarak era.
“Mubarak is no longer in our hearts. He has no value to us anymore. We need to focus on the present and future. What's been done is done, but may God fix his situation.”
Former presidential candidate and veteran diplomat Abdullah al Ashaal – who is now supporting the Muslim Brotherhood's Morsi – told VOA he thinks much of the maneuvering by the military council could backfire.
“I think the military council is testing the determination of the people and they are trying to find a way back to power as the 30th of June is approaching. They declared before that the 30th will be the final day to settle power to the civilian government. So now, we have arrived to the terminal.”
The powerful Brotherhood movement has vowed to challenge the military's recent moves restoring martial law, dismissing the Islamist-dominated parliament and curbing the powers of the incoming president.
But Professor Marius Deeb at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies tells VOA despite the public protests, the military and the Muslim Brotherhood are not at odds.
“It's an old game. Now it's more in the open – the Muslim Brotherhood and the military. Despite appearances, they need each other.”
Deeb says whether the Brotherhood's Morsi is declared the winner or whether Shafiq emerges victorious, the outcome ensures little will actually change.
“They have been propped up by Sadat and Mubarak as a bogeyman against any liberal or democratic alternatives to Sadat and Mubarak's regime. And, of course, the bogeyman became slightly bigger but still manageable. But the important thing is that the liberals, the revolutionaries are crushed. And that's what they've done.”
A unilaterally declared interim constitution grants the ruling military council's generals and the courts final say over much domestic and foreign policy and the constitutional drafting process. It rules that no election can be held until a military-appointed panel writes a permanent constitution whose articles the generals can veto.