CAIRO - Egyptian election officials said Saturday that they will confirm the results of the nation's first democratic presidential election today, an announcement that will either usher in the Arab world's first Islamist head of state or place at the helm a veteran of deposed leader Hosni Mubarak's secular government.
The announcement is set to come one week after a runoff vote ended and three days after the elections commission initially pledged to declare the winner, a delay the body said was needed to review hundreds of complaints lodged by the campaigns. Both candidates - the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsi and former prime minister Ahmed Shafiq - have claimed narrow victories.
The announcement would also come more than 17 months after Egyptians began massing in Cairo's Tahrir Square in a popular revolt that ended in the ouster of Mubarak, who ruled for three decades. Although the jubilation of that event faded into a turbulent and divisive transition period, the square remains a powerful symbol, and on Saturday it pulsated with thousands of Brotherhood backers promising continued demonstrations if Morsi does not win.
On the other side of town, pro-Shafiq and pro-military demonstrators staged their largest gathering yet. "The people and the army - one hand," some shouted.
Tensions are simmering after a tumultuous two weeks during which the military dissolved the Islamist-dominated parliament, instituted martial law and issued a decree that stripped powers from the future president. The moves were denounced by many activists and analysts as bids by the generals to cement their grip.