CAIRO - Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak was Wednesday in a coma on life support at a Cairo hospital, sources said, as tension spiked over who will succeed him as president and moves by the ruling military to extend its powers.
The uncertainty over the health of the ousted leader comes amid new political upheaval, with both candidates in a presidential vote claiming victory and the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) granting itself sweeping powers. Mubarak “is not clinically dead,” a medical source told AFP. “He is in a coma and the doctors are trying to revive him.”
“He has been placed on an artificial respirator,” the source added, in an account confirmed by a member of Egypt’s ruling military council, who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity. Egypt’s state television carried a ticker item saying Mubarak was in “a coma and is not clinically dead.” State news agency MENA had earlier said the ousted strongman, 84, had been declared clinically dead after suffering a stroke in prison and being transferred to hospital.
“Hosni Mubarak is clinically dead,” the report said. “Medical sources told MENA his heart had stopped beating and did not respond to defibrillation.” News of Mubarak’s failing health came as Egypt wrapped up a presidential election runoff and faced “the most critical 48 hours in its history,” said the state-owned daily Al-Ahram. The Muslim Brotherhood said in the early hours of Monday morning that their candidate, Mohamed Morsi, had won the runoff, and on Tuesday provided what they said were certified copies of ballot tallies to bolster their claims.
But Morsi’s rival Ahmed Shafiq, Mubarak’s last prime minister, has also claimed a victory, with his campaign accusing the Brotherhood of issuing false figures and insisting official results due out on Thursday will declare him president. The electoral committee begins Wednesday looking into the appeals filed by both sides, state television said. A group of independent judges — headed by the ex-head of the Judges Union, Zakaria Abdel Aziz — who monitored the voting process confirmed in a news conference that Morsi had won, according to their tally.
The new president, irrespective of the result, will not wield the near-absolute authority Mubarak enjoyed for three decades, after SCAF issued a constitutional declaration on Sunday claiming sweeping powers. Mubarak’s successor will also inherit a struggling economy, increased insecurity and the challenge of uniting a nation divided by the uprising and its deadly aftermath. The SCAF’s document said it would retake legislative powers from the Islamist-dominated parliament after the country’s constitutional court on Thursday ordered the body dissolved.
And it grants the military council veto power over the drafting of a permanent constitution, angering activists who denounced the declaration and an earlier order giving the army power to arrest civilians, as a “coup.” The Brotherhood also rejected the declaration, insisting the parliament retains legislative power, and pledging to participate in “popular activities” against it. On Tuesday night, they joined a mass demonstration in Cairo’s Tahrir square, which attracted over 15,000 protesters, some celebrating Morsi’s win as much as denouncing the military move. The demonstrators were still in the square as the conflicting details of Mubarak’s condition filtered in. “It’s divine retribution,” said Saber Amr, a teacher. “God doesn’t forgive those who do wrong to their people. God doesn’t forgive those who kill innocents.” Nearby, Abdel Mottaleb, a Brotherhood supporter, offered a more conciliatory tone. “We are Muslims. We respect the dead regardless,” he said. “God will judge him.” A security source said Mubarak’s wife Suzanne was visiting him in hospital, and state television said an “official statement” on his health would be released “soon,” giving no further details. Mubarak was taken to a Cairo prison on June 2, after a court handed down a life sentence against him over his involvement in the deaths of protesters during the 2011 uprising that pushed him from power.