Jumping the gun
Everyone's a winner if you believe the presidential campaign teams, reports Mohamed Abdel-Baky
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Mohamed Mursi, centre, speaks during a press conference after his apparent victory in the presidential election at his campaign headquarters in Cairo, on Monday; presidential candidate Ahmed Shafik campaign official, Karim Salem, at the campaign headquarters in Cairo, saying that Shafik has won the elections
Farouk Sultan, head of the Presidential Elections Commission, said on Tuesday that the vote in the run-off was still being counted in 14 governorates. Yet in the absence of a final tally, the camps of both presidential runners have claimed victory for their candidates in what appears to be an exercise in dangerous brinkmanship.
Monday dawned with Muslim Brotherhood presidential candidate Mohamed Mursi unilaterally declaring victory in the run-offs and promising the Egyptian people he would meet their expectations, "taking the path of democracy, where everyone is equal before the law".
The immediate response from the campaign of Mursi's rival, Ahmed Shafik, was to denounce the victory declaration as unwarranted. The Muslim Brotherhood, they claimed, was attempting to impose a fait accompli. By Tuesday Shafik's campaign was claiming their man was ahead, leading Mursi by half a million votes.
"We are not claiming victory," said the head of Shafik's campaign Karim Salem. "But initial results show that Shafik received 51 per cent of the votes."
Salem blamed widespread reports of Mursi's victory on "incorrect results" propagated in the media.
Shafik spokesman Ahmed Sarhan repeated the claim that Mursi's campaign was circulating "false results". They began announcing the results "before half the votes were counted".
Sarhan said Shafik's campaign would have remained silent until the official announcement of results "were it not for the Mursi campaign's premature declaration of victory".
Meanwhile, Mursi's supporters produced what they claimed was a compendium of results showing Mursi to be the winner. The pamphlet contained what purported to be returns from polling stations in all of Egypt's 27 governorates, replete with official stamps and the signatures of supervising judges, in an attempt to convince the public Mursi had secured 13,238,298 votes, or 52 per cent of the total, and Mubarak-era premier Shafik 12,351,184.
"The figures are based on polling station results issued on Sunday and Monday, along with the tally of expatriate votes," a Mursi campaign spokesperson said.
The Muslim Brotherhood numbers were supported when a group of reformist judges who collectively monitored the elections process, "Judges for Egypt", announced on Wednesday that Mursi had won.
In a press conference at the Press Syndicate, Judge Walid El-Sharab, spokesman of the group, announced Mursi winning with 13, 238,335 votes and Shafik with 12,351,310.
Initial results often contain a margin of error of up to two percentage points, says human rights activist Negad El-Boraai, lending weight to the Shafik campaign's complaint that Mursi's announcement was jumping the gun.
El-Boraai condemned the decision by Mursi's supporters to make public figures that had yet to be ratified, and to claim victory before all votes had been counted.
Mursi made what to all intents and purposes was an acceptance speech, promising to be president of all Egyptians, not just those who voted for him.
"I will be serving all Egyptians. Now it is time to build our country. There will be no room in my presidency for the settling of accounts."
Chants of "God is great" and "down with military rule" rang out at the press conference, and hundreds of Mursi supporters marched to Tahrir Square to celebrate.