Egyptians Protest Military ‘Coup’

Thousands have packed Cairo’s iconic Tahrir Square to denounce a power grab by the ruling military, as the nation nervously awaited the results of the first post-Mubarak presidential election.

Members and supporters of the powerful Muslim Brotherhood gathered in the square for the protest on Friday, which was to be joined later in the afternoon by several secular movements.

Protesters used umbrellas, newspapers and hats to shield themselves from the brutal sun, as they chanted “down with military rule.”

Those camping out overnight demanded military rulers reverse new orders that entrench the generals’ power and called on the election commission to declare the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi president.

State television said the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) was to issue a statement at 1:30 pm (1130 GMT), amid mounting anger over the perceived threat to the fragile democratic gains made since the uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak. It did not elaborate.

Across town, in a luxury international hotel, former  general Ahmed Shafik, who was Hosni Mubarak’s prime minister when the army forced out the dictator to appease the Tahrir protesters, challenged Morsi’s self-proclaimed victory and said he was sure he had won.

At a televised address to whooping and cheering supporters, Shafik said: “These protests in the squares, the campaigns of terror and the media manipulation are all attempts to force the election committee to announce a particular result.”

Speaking in person rather than through spokesmen as he has through the week, he added: “I am fully confident that I will be the legitimate winner.” He called for calm and unity, saying he would invite opponents to join his administration.

On Thursday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said it held concerns over the military’s commitment to hand over power to civilian rule.

“The generals’ relentless expansion of their authority to detain and try civilians now goes far beyond their powers under Hosni Mubarak,” Joe Stork, HRW Middle East director, said in a statement

“These decrees are the latest indication yet that there won’t be a meaningful handover to civilian rule on June 30,” Stork added.

The Election Commission did not say when it would announce the winner of the runoff. But its secretary-general, Hatem Begato, told the state newspaper Al-Ahram that the winner would be announced on Saturday or Sunday.

Read the rest at Al Jazeera 

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