A woman shows her ink-stained finger after casting her vote at a polling station in Cairo
Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood said on Monday its candidate won the country's first free presidential election, but a sweeping legal manoeuvre overnight by Cairo's military rulers made clear the generals planned to keep control for now.
An election committee source told Reuters that Islamist Mohamed Morsy, a U.S.-educated engineer, was comfortably ahead of former air force general, Ahmed Shafik with most of the votes tallied. But the count, which would make him the first civilian leader in 60 years, had yet to be officially finalised.
In any event, however, the new president will be subordinate for some time at least to the military council which last year pushed fellow officer Mubarak aside to appease street protests.
In the latest twist on Egypt's tortuous path from revolution to democracy, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) issued a decree as two days of voting ended on Sunday which set strict limits on the powers of head of state. On the eve of the election, it had already dissolved the Islamist-led parliament.
Liberal and Islamist opponents denounced a "military coup".
"Military Transfers Power, to Military," ran the ironic headline in independent newspaper al-Masry al-Youm.
The Brotherhood, however, expressed its joy and defiance on the streets and may challenge moves by the generals that cast doubt on their pledge to hand over to civilian rule by July 1 - a promise supported by Egypt's U.S. and European allies, despite their deep misgivings about the rise of political Islam in the wake of the Arab Spring uprisings across the Middle East.
"Thanks be to God who has guided Egypt's people to the path of freedom and democracy, uniting Egyptians for a better future," Morsy, a former political prisoner, said in a victory speech in which he forswore seeking revenge or settling scores.
An aide to Shafik, Mubarak's last prime minister, refused to concede defeat and accused Morsy of "hijacking the election."
However, the source on the electoral committee told Reuters: "The results ... which show Morsy in the lead, reflect to a large degree the results tallied by the electoral committee."
The Brotherhood put Morsy ahead by 52 percent to 48 on a turnout of about 50 percent. Many supporters of candidates knocked out in last month's first round stayed home or spoiled their ballots in protest at a choice they saw as between going back to the old regime or a future religious state.
Hundreds of flag-waving supporters of the Brotherhood, whose members long suffered imprisonment, torture and death at the hands of the generals, gathered in Tahrir Square, where the anti-Mubarak revolution erupted in central Cairo 16 months ago.
"Thank God, we have got rid of military rule and the police state," said Mona Issam, one of a group of cheering women clad in long robes and full-face veils. "We hope Morsy takes power from the military council and the army goes back to barracks.
"God has given us victory. God stood by us and lifted the weight of oppression. We wanted an Islamic state. We lived like strangers in our land under the old regime. We were oppressed and Islam was not the law. I'm very, very happy. Thank God."