Egypt Presidential Election Results Delayed: Is the Army Complicit to Blame?

CAIRO – The announcement of the final results of last weekend’s presidential runoff elections between Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi and former Mubarak prime minister Ahmed Shafiq have been delayed, according to Reuters. The election committee was supposed to declare a winner on Thursday, but now claims that it needs more time to consider appeals from the candidates.

In polarized post-revolutionary Egypt, the announcement of either candidate as the winner has the potential to stir unrest and possibly violence. Anxieties about the return of the Mubarak regime’s brutal repression are just as strong here as worries of the implementation of an Islamic state. While it’s far from clear that the election of either Shafiq or Morsi would lead to these respective scenarios, speculation and fear about them characterize much of the popular discourse.

The motives of the committee — and, by extension, the ruling SCAF — for delaying the announcement of results can only be speculated about at this point. The postponement comes at a critical time in an already hectic week of political maneuvering.

Yesterday, thousands of Egyptians from various political persuasions gathered in Tahrir Square to protest SCAF’s constitutional annex, a document that severely restricts the powers of the president and strengthens the military’s hand. They were there again on Wednesday night in smaller numbers.

On the same day, rumors broke out that Mubarak had died. In the midst of what may very well be the abortion of the transfer of power to a civilian government, many Egyptians have become consumed with vacuous speculation about the former dictator’s health.

The delay likely also seeks to avoid galvanizing popular discontent one day before this Friday, the traditional day of protest in Egypt.

Within this context, it’s still nearly impossible to say what the military’s play is. Various news agencies (including Al Jazeera) and local sources reported a notable increase today of military vehicles on the streets of Cairo and Alexandria. It would seem that the military is digging in for the long fight, but at the same time, they could just be buying time to see how the situation unfolds.

Given SCAF’s numerous missteps in the past year and a half, it’s hard to see how this could be part of a master plan, but it’s by no means unreasonable to believe that the peaceful transfer of power to civilians is likely to be delayed.