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In Egypt, Both Sides Claim Victory in Presidential Vote

June 18, 2012 at 12:00 AM EST
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GWEN IFILL: In Egypt today, both sides claimed they won more votes in this weekend’s presidential election. Meanwhile, Egypt’s ruling military leaders issued constitutional amendments to strip presidential powers and increase their own authority.

We begin with a report from Jonathan Rugman of Independent Television News reports in Cairo.

JONATHAN RUGMAN: In Tahrir Square this morning, it was crisis, what crisis? The Muslim Brotherhood celebrating apparent victory in the first presidential election here with more than one candidate, a moment to savor, after 60 years of autocratic military rule.

MAN (through translator): This is the first president ever properly elected in Egypt. So, personally I’m so happy I can’t even describe it. Thank God almighty.

JONATHAN RUGMAN: The man who would be president is Mohammed Morsi, a 60-year-old physics professor. He pledged to represent all Egyptians, including the country’s 10 million or so Christians. But his victory speech may have been premature, because his rival, Ahmed Shafiq, a retired air marshal from the old regime, has not conceded defeat.

The weekend’s vote is still being counted and the result seems too close to call. As the day wore on, the traffic returned to Tahrir. Egypt may be in constitutional crisis because last night the army announced it was in charge of all law making, as well as the budget and the writing of a new constitution. But it’s too early to say whether the revolution in this sweltering city will reignite or not.

If Mr. Morsi has lost, his supporters may well cry foul and protest. And even if he’s won, he may be little more than a figurehead, though Egypt’s military rulers today insisted they didn’t want power and would hand it over to the new president by the end of this month.

GEN. MOHAMMED AL-ASSAR, Egyptian Military Council (through translator): The elected president will be handed all powers vested in the power of the president, the head of the executive authority, with complete authority, with all due respect. And he will be the head of state. There is no doubt about that.

JONATHAN RUGMAN: In Tahrir this evening, supporters of Egypt’s first Islamist president are celebrating, though if the army doesn’t deliver on its promise of civilian rule the move could soon turn towards revolt.