CAIRO - Hosni Mubarak, the imprisoned former president of Egypt, was either near death or recovering well from minor injuries he suffered when he slipped in the bathroom, according to two of the many accounts of his health that swirled through Cairo on Wednesday as the country's election commission inched toward an official announcement of who will succeed him as president.
The commission warned that its official pronouncement of the results of last weekend's voting might be delayed as it tries to sort through more than 400 appeals of irregularities filed by the two candidates, Muslim Brotherhood standard-bearer Mohammed Morsi and former Mubarak prime minister Ahmed Shafiq. But it was uncertain whether the results, due to be released today, would be delayed by just hours or pushed back to Friday - a postponement that would be sure to raise suspicions about the validity of the result.
There was no easy explanation for the various reports of Mubarak's health - and much speculation that the varying reports were simply intended to confuse a public already on edge about the military's reassertion of authority after the Supreme Constitutional Court last week ordered the Islamist-dominated Parliament dissolved.
"Such rumors are nothing but a cheap attempt to destabilize the political scene and ruin the democratic transformation and the transfer of power to the elected president," said Khairat el-Shater, the Muslim Brotherhood's chief strategist and financier, who was the group's first choice for president but was declared ineligible to run because of Mubarak-era criminal convictions.
A statement from the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which has run Egypt largely by decree since Mubarak resigned amid protests 16 months ago, said Mubarak "is still alive but in a critical condition." That assertion, however, was countered by attorneys who claimed to represent Mubarak, 84, who was sentenced June 2 to life in prison for failing to stop the killing of protesters by security forces trying to put down the 18-day uprising that ended with his ouster.
A Mubarak lawyer, Yosri Abdelrazeq, told reporters that Mubarak "simply fell down in the prison bathroom" and was taken to a hospital with a head wound.