Former Egyptian leader, Hosni Mubarak
The United States expressed alarm that its protégés in the Egyptian army were abusing hopes for democracy by ordering more military rule just as the Muslim Brotherhood was claiming victory in the country's first free presidential election.
The Islamists' self-assurance was contested by the other candidate in the run-off race, a former general who was prime minister when Hosni Mubarak was ousted last year by an army anxious to save itself from the revolution in the streets.
But there was still no result from the two-day poll, although independent officials privately spoke of a likely win for Islamist Mohamed Morsy over military man Ahmed Shafik, according to Reuters.
Yet whatever the outcome - and one electoral supervisor said it might not be announced until Thursday - the new president was shorn in advance of much of his power by a decree issued by the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) just as polling stations closed and two days after it had dissolved a new, Islamist-led parliament.
In protest, the liberal urban youth movements which were in the vanguard of protests at Cairo's Tahrir Square 16 months ago, as well as the Brotherhood and other supporters of the uprising, plan a major demonstration there later on Tuesday.
"This decree just makes plain the hegemony of SCAF," said Khaled Ali, a liberal lawyer eliminated in the first round of voting. "This decree strips the president of the powers he was elected to have and gives those to the military council."
The constitutional declaration, one more twist in Egypt's halting progress toward democracy since the Arab Spring, effectively means that a July 1 deadline promised for a handover to civilian rule has been reduced to semantics, since the new civilian president looks to be very close to powerless.
Liberals and Islamists called it a "military coup".
Washington, which only in March agreed to hand over $1.3 billion in annual aid to the biggest army in the Middle East, was far from pleased - not least, it seemed, because the man in charge of the council, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, failed to mention his plan when assuring Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Friday that the target date for civilian rule would be met.
"We are deeply concerned about the new amendments to the constitutional declaration, including the timing of their announcement as polls were closing," a Pentagon spokesman said, adding that he did not think Tantawi had alerted Panetta when they spoke.
"We believe Egypt's transition must continue and that Egypt is made stronger and more stable by a successful transition to democracy," spokesman George Little said. "We support the Egyptian people in their expectation that the (SCAF) will transfer full power to a democratically elected civilian government, as the SCAF previously announced."
Egyptian democracy was relatively low among U.S. priorities during the 30-odd years Washington was funneling aid and arms to a Cold War ally which led Arab peace moves toward Israel in 1979 and was later fighting a common enemy in militant Islam.
But since Egyptians rose up to end six decades of military rule, U.S. leaders have pledged to support them, even if that means accepting a role for the Brotherhood, a long-suppressed movement that wants Islamic law and which spawned offshoots such as the militant Palestinian Hamas movement across the Middle East.