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Mubarak health confusion adds to poll tension

Text by Julien PEYRON

Latest update : 2012-06-20

Egyptians on Tuesday greeted reports and denials of former President Hosni Mubarak’s death with scepticism, weary of additional political drama as the country awaits the official results of the presidential election.

Confusion has reigned over Egyptian news these past two days, with one conflicting report after another concerning the outcome of the presidential election and the declining health of former President Hosni Mubarak.

The 84-year-old ousted leader suffered a stroke on Tuesday night and was transferred from Cairo’s Tora prison, where he is serving a life sentence, to the Mahdi military hospital.

State news agency MENA reported Tuesday evening that he was “clinically dead.” A few hours later, state TV and military sources denied this with reports that he had been placed on life support.

Swirling rumours

The Egyptians, who were once again demonstrating in Tahrir Square, greeted these contradictory reports with scepticism, according to FRANCE 24 special correspondent Gallagher Fenwick.

“There is a lot of confusion,” Fenwick said. “People are very doubtful because there has been widespread speculation about the rapidly deteriorating health of the former president. Remember ten days ago before his verdict his lawyers were saying he was in a coma, and two days later he appeared in the courtroom looking pretty healthy.”

In Tahrir Square, Chadil, a member of the January 25 movement that precipitated Egypt’s revolution, told FRANCE 24’s Pauline Garaude: “I don’t care about Mubarak dying. What matters is the revolution, not his death.”

Gilles Kepel, an expert on the Middle East, said he was not surprised about the Egyptians’ lack of reaction. “They say Mubarak belongs to the past. The big issue today is the election.”

Indeed, it was not Mubarak’s health that brought thousands to Tahrir Square on Tuesday night, but a political rally.

The Muslim Brotherhood had urged its supporters to come and celebrate what it considered to be the victory of its candidate, Mohammed Morsi, in the country’s presidential race.

'Electoral drama'

Political tensions are running high, just three days after the second round of the country’s first free presidential election, which pitted the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi against Ahmed Shafiq, the last prime minister of the Mubarak era.

Both candidates have already claimed victory, although official results are not expected until Thursday.

Middle East expert Gilles Kepel, who has been in Cairo for several days already, described the confusion generated by conflicting rumours: “Yesterday morning it was Morsi, then a few hours later it was Shafiq, as if it were part and parcel of something done on purpose so that there will be no real mobilisation.”

He added: “The reports and denials about Mubarak’s death are also part of this ‘electoral comedy’, so to speak.”

Tension had already escalated on Saturday, when the army granted itself sweeping legislative powers, right after dissolving the Islamist-dominated parliament.

The twin moves had prompted the Muslim Brotherhood to slam “a coup against the whole democratic process", suggesting the next head of state would not be able to pass a single law without military approval.

 

Date created : 2012-06-20

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