Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was being kept alive on life support after suffering a stroke, as the two men vying to succeed him claimed the country’s presidency.
Mubarak, 84, was being treated at a military hospital after he was transferred from a prison where he had been held since his sentencing to life, retired Major General Sameh Seif el- Layzil, who maintains close ties to the military, said on Wednesday in an interview. Egypt’s state-run Middle East News Agency, citing medical officials it didn’t name, reported earlier that Mubarak was “clinically” dead.
The reports added to the confusion clouding Egypt’s transition to democracy, which began when Mubarak was pushed from power by a mass uprising last year. Since then, the country has limped from one crisis to the next, with the latest coming after the ruling military council that took over from Mubarak claimed additional powers following balloting to chose a civilian president.
The move drew tens of thousands of protesters, led by the Muslim Brotherhood’s political party, to downtown Cairo on Tuesday. Criticism also came from abroad.
Former United States President Jimmy Carter, whose Carter Center observed the vote, said he was “deeply troubled by the undemocratic turn that Egypt’s transition has taken.”
The military’s decree “violates their prior commitment to the Egyptian people to make a full transfer of power to an elected civilian government,” Carter said in a statement e- mailed by the center.
The protests came after the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Mursi and Mubarak’s last premier, Ahmed Shafik, made dueling claims to the country’s presidency. Official election results haven’t been announced.
The ruling generals’ appropriation of power through a constitutional decree enraged the Brotherhood and youth activists such as the April 6 group, which played a leading role in the Egyptian uprising. Protesters returned to the home of the revolution, Cairo’s Tahrir Square, demanding a reversal of what the Islamist group called the military’s “hegemony.”
A decree gave the military additional legislative powers and a say over the drafting of the constitution. It followed a court decision last week to dissolve parliament and fueled charges the military is derailing Egypt’s transition to democracy. The move also stoked investor concern about a recovery in the US$240 billion economy and prospects for a $3.2 billion International Monetary Fund loan.
Mursi and Shafik’s campaigns held televised news conferences yesterday, with both claiming they had won about 52 per cent of the vote in the runoff.
The two men were the most divisive to emerge from a field of 13 candidates in the election’s first round last month. The vote was intended to cap the transition process made possible by Mubarak’s push from power.
The man who led Egypt for almost 30 years was sentenced to life in prison on June 2 for failing to prevent the deaths of protesters killed during last year’s uprising. He was then remanded to the intensive-care unit of Cairo’s Tora prison, where his two sons were also held.
His condition steadily deteriorated upon his arrival, and took another turn for the worse late yesterday. Prison department spokesman Brigadier-General Mohamed Elewa said Mubarak had to be placed on a ventilator.
Shortly after that announcement, he was rushed from the prison hospital to a nearby military hospital. MENA reported that he was clinically dead upon arrival and doctors were unable to revive him after using a defibrillator several times.
El-Layzil said doctors were able to clear a clot and revive Mubarak and that he was placed on life support.
Mubarak’s lawyer, Farid ElDib, said his client was alive, though he attributed his poor state to the “lack of medical care or treatment” at the prison hospital, the state-run Al- Ahram quoted him as saying on Wednesday.
Earlier reports of Mubarak’s deteriorating health in prison were met with skepticism by Islamists and activists such as the April 6 youth group. They said it was a pretext to move a man they blamed for the country’s ills, including unemployment, inflation and poor educational and health care systems, to more comfortable surroundings.
The ruling military, which Mubarak had been a part of before rising to the presidency with the assassination of his predecessor, was described by the Islamists and activists as trying to continue its own legacy. The generals’ grab for power was the focus of the protest on Tuesday.
Under the decree, the military assumed legislative powers until the election of a new parliament, after the previous Islamist-led legislature was dissolved. It also ensured its own budget remained beyond public scrutiny and that it could exercise a hand in writing the constitution, as well as vetoing provisions in the document.
The military sought to reassure Egyptians that it would hand over power by the end of June.
“What the military got was legislative power and their privileges and prerogatives guaranteed,” Hani Sabra, a Middle East analyst with Eurasia Group, said by phone. “They got this because they out-maneuvered the Brotherhood.”
The tension in the country was reflected in the markets, with Egypt’s benchmark EGX 30 (EGX30) stock index slumping 4.2 per cent at the close in Cairo yesterday, extending its slide since the first-round election last month to 18 per cent. Yields on the country’s 5.75 per cent dollar bonds maturing in 2020 advanced for a fourth day, gaining three basis points to 6.97 per cent.
Economic growth stalled after last year’s revolt as tourists and investors stayed away. The government’s borrowing costs for one-year debt have surged by about 50 per cent since the start of last year, and the central bank has spent more than half of the country’s currency reserves.