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Egypt’s rival presidential candidates claim victory in historic race

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Both of Egypt’s rival presidential candidates, Mohamed Mursi and Ahmad Shafiq, have claimed victory in an apparent media battle to influence public opinion ahead of official results.

Mursi's campaign held a press conference on Tuesday, in which a spokesman announced what he described as official results.

According to their figures, Mursi won 52 percent of the vote, while Shafiq lost out to the presidency with 48 percent.

On Monday, when the Brotherhood announced similar figures, Shafiq campaign officials refused to concede victory, saying their figures showed their man was ahead.

“It’s a stolen victory because you can’t claim to have won a presidential election while the polling stations are still closing,” Shafiq campaign manager Ahmed Sarhan told reporters.

“It’s an act of piracy to claim victory using totally false figures,” he said, adding that preliminary results obtained by the campaign showed Shafiq “still ahead in the vote, with between 51 and 52 percent.”

Whoever is declared the winner, the country faces the prospect of a looming showdown between the Brotherhood and the ruling military over parliamentary and presidential powers.

On Tuesday Shafiq’s campaign reiterated claims of victory saying, "We are certain that the next president of Egypt is General Shafiq."

Shafiq leads Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Mursi by "51.5 percent," Shafiq’s spokesman Karim Salem said.

"We are ready to take legal action... to confirm and prove he is the future president of Egypt," Salem added.

But the campaign declined to give full vote figures, saying it was the electoral commission's job to announce the results.

Sarhan said Shafiq had won by more by than 500,000 votes. Appeals submitted by his campaign could affect about a million votes in the official result, he added.

The Muslim Brotherhood, meanwhile, has planned a mass demonstration in Cairo on Tuesday to protest against the ruling military council’s move to claim sweeping new powers through a constitutional decree.

The army’s manoeuver has been described by critics and opposition activists as a “soft coup,” in which it reclaimed legislative power last week following a court ruling dissolving the Islamist-led parliament.

The decision overshadowed the country’s presidential election, which went into its runoff round earlier this week and saw Egyptians choose between the Brotherhood’s candidate Mursi and former prime minister Shafiq.
“Even as votes were being cast in the second round of the presidential election, the army awarded itself sweeping new powers that will severely limit the scope for Hosni Mubarak’s successor,” wrote Ian Black, The Guardian’s Middle East editor, on Monday.

The ruling military body, the Supreme Council of Armed Forces, has introduced de facto martial law, given itself control of the legislature and state budget and also granted itself veto power on a new constitution.