Jun 20 2012
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WSJ(6/20) Egyptian Opposition Finds Unity
Wednesday, Jun 20, 2012
(From THE WALL STREET JOURNAL)
By Matt Bradley, Charles Levinson and Tamer El-Ghobashy
CAIRO -- Egypt's Islamist and liberal forces, wary about the results of the weekend's presidential election, cast aside their ideological differences to protest the ruling military's moves to extend its grip on power.
As protest numbers swelled into the tens of thousands Cairo's Tahrir Square on Tuesday, the elections commission said it was evaluating hundreds of complaints in the runoff contest between the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohammed Morsi and former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq, both of whom claimed victory. Official results are expected on Thursday.
The effort in Tahrir Square offered the first indication that liberal-minded political groups could be willing to rally behind the Muslim Brotherhood to check the military leadership's hold on Egypt's emerging political system.
In the past two weeks, the interim ruling military leadership has restored martial law, dismissed Parliament, cut down the proscribed powers of the presidency and seized authority over the drafting of the country's next constitution.
"No Salafi, no liberal, no Brotherhood, today it's only Egyptian," sang one large group of protesters in Tahrir Square, the focal point of the uprising that ousted President Hosni Mubarak last year and left the military in charge of transition.
Meanwhile, rival campaigns claimed victory and reports of fraud and irregularities piled up.
The Muslim Brotherhood, holding a news conference on Tuesday morning, repeated its report that Mr. Morsi had won 52% of the vote to Mr. Shafiq's 48%. The Brotherhood presented reams of paperwork attesting to their candidate's victory, including a nationwide breakdown of voting totals by polling station.
Across town, campaigners for Mr. Shafiq retorted that their candidate was in the lead with 51.5%. In a sign of legal battles to come, a Shafiq campaign manager said Mr. Shafiq and his supporters are "prepared to go to the furthest point possible to prove that Shafiq is Egypt's next president."
When Egyptian journalists pressed Mr. Shafiq's media representatives for hard numbers, the campaign workers demurred, insisting that the official results would vindicate their claims.
The Shafiq campaign accused the Muslim Brotherhood of announcing Mr. Morsi's victory before all the ballots could be counted. Campaigners said reports of fraudulent voting would invalidate enough ballots to launch Mr. Shafiq into first place.
The election commission, which is stocked with judges appointed by Mr. Mubarak, is set to rule on 220 reports from the Shafiq camp and 140 from the Morsi camp.
International campaign observers, including the Atlanta-based Carter Center, complained that the Egyptian government offered limited access to their observers. But monitors noted only a few isolated cases of administrative errors, and none declared the vote invalid.
When Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court dissolved Parliament just before the runoff election, many activists accused the military of orchestrating a soft coup, but the few calls for mass protest were largely ignored.
Some liberal-minded politicians, including those who have been critical of military rule, publicly praised the court's decision to dissolve the Islamist-dominated assembly.
But on Tuesday evening, protesters projected a unified message. On a hastily built stage on the western edge of Tahrir Square, speakers from the secular-minded 6th of April Youth Movement and the Muslim Brotherhood took turns addressing the crowd.
When one speaker attempted to lead the gathered crowd in a chant of "Morsi" he was cut off by another person on the stage and, chastened, changed it to a slogan against military rule.
The scene was echoed in the crowd. As two men argued over whether the demonstration was in support of Mr. Morsi, a stranger quickly interjected, saying "It's one hand in the square," a slogan drawn from the uprising that toppled Mr. Mubarak.
Reports that the Muslim Brotherhood would convene Parliament on Tuesday in defiance of a court ruling never materialized. Mahmoud Ghozlan, a spokesman for the group, said it never planned to do so.
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
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