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Egypt Polls Close, Military Asserts Power

 Egyptian state television reported late Sunday that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces would explain the widely anticipated declaration at a news conference the next day. 

According to military sources, the move would grant the SCAF exclusive legislative powers in addition to control of the nation’s budget until a new parliament is elected. The decree also would give the military the authority to compose the constituent assembly that will draft Egypt’s new constitution.The opposition did not offer any immediate comments on Sunday’s announcement.

 

With vote counting underway, aides to both candidates in the runoff – Ahmed Shafiq, the Mubarak-era representative, and an Islamist, Mohammed Morsi – were claiming their man was in the lead. 

Turnout appeared low compared with the 46 percent reported in last month’s first round – a sign of dampening morale as the military tightened its grip on power.The lack of participation likely also reflects dissolution with the choice of candidates. Mr. Shafiq is a former air force general and confidant of former President Hosni Mubarak, who was ousted in an uprising last year.  Mr. Shafiq promised to restore order and push back against the rise of Islamism. Mr. Morsi represents the once-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, a religious party committed to reversing liberal social traditions.

 

Many of Egypt’s 50 million eligible voters saw neither man as an acceptable choice. Some cast ballots against both candidates in a sign of protest.

 

Voters shared with VOA Sunday their disillusionment about the stark differences between the two contenders, as the first round eliminated centrist candidates.

 

The announcement of the winner as Egypt’s first freely elected president is set for Thursday, but unofficial results are expected sooner.

 

Last week’s Supreme Constitutional Court ruling to dissolve the country’s current parliament led to accusations from some leading Islamists and liberals that the military is instituting a de facto coup through the judiciary. 

The official MENA news agency said parliament received notice of the decree Saturday and that lawmakers will be barred from entering parliament, except with permission.

 

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