Egypt’s election commission announced Thursday that it would delay the official results in the nation’s first contested presidential election until possibly as late as Sunday, fueling already-rampant speculation that the ruling military council may be trying to rig the results. The Presidential Election Commission, which is led by a judicial holdover from the regime of toppled President Hosni Mubarak, announced the delay a day after saying the results would be released Thursday. He said the delay was necessary so that the commission could be deliberate in its review of more than 400 complaints by the candidates, Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Morsi and Ahmed Shafiq, Mubarak’s last prime minister. Among the accusations is that the Morsi campaign stuffed boxes with 1 million forged ballots in polling stations nationwide. According to Morsi’s campaign, its candidate leads Shafiq by 887,014 votes out of nearly 25.6 million cast.
But Egyptians – who in the days since last weekend’s election have endured wild rumors about Mubarak’s health, military-ordered changes in their temporary constitution and competing claims over who won the election – were doubtful that any public official was being honest. Some drew money from their bank accounts and stocked up on food as rumors flew of tanks positioned on the roads leading to Cairo. Many feared violence as the ruling military council, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Parliament, Shafiq and the constitutional assembly tasked with writing a permanent document jockeyed for power.
Some wondered whether the military council was leveraging an official election announcement to get concessions from Morsi on how he’d govern. If the generals didn’t get what they wanted, this speculation went, the ruling council would declare Shafiq the winner. Some Brotherhood members appeared on local television stations and said the military council was threatening them. But Mahmoud Ghozlan, a Brotherhood spokesman, told McClatchy Newspapers there’d been no communication between his organization and the military about the release of election results. “That is speculation,” Ghozlan said.