CAIRO – The Muslim Brotherhood is stepping up its campaign against an interim constitution declared by Egypt's ruling military that curtails the powers of the next president, calling for protests Tuesday in Cairo and other cities.
The protests mark the opening of the possible next chapter in Egypt's turmoil -- a power struggle between the Muslim Brotherhood, which claims its candidate won this weekend's presidential runoff, and the generals, who have carved out for themselves a status as the ultimate rulers even after they nominally hand over authorities to the new president on by July 1.
Brotherhood supporters are also protesting a court ruling last week that dissolved parliament, where the group was the largest bloc with just under half the seats.
On Tuesday, a handful of lawmakers made symbolic attempts to enter parliament, but were met by a locked gate and a line of anti-riot soldiers on the other side.
The court ruling has been endorsed by the military, whose leader, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, issued a decree dissolving the legislature. The Brotherhood and its Islamist allies dismissed the decree on the ground that the military ruler had no right to issue it less than two weeks before the scheduled transfer of power to civilians.
Spokesmen for the campaign of Mohammed Morsi, the Brotherhood presidential candidate, said other political groups were expected to join Tuesday's planned anti-military protests. April 6, one of the main revolutionary groups behind last year's uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak's regime, confirmed it would participate.
How much others participate will be a key measure of whether the Islamist group can rally secular and leftist movements to its side.
The Cairo stock market fell for the second straight day, down 4.2 percent on the main index Tuesday and shedding 8.3 billion LE, over worries about the political instability.
The campaign spokesmen repeated their claim that Morsi, a U.S.-trained engineer, won 52 percent of the votes compared to 48 by Ahmed Shafiq, Mubarak's last prime minister and a career air force officer
The election commission will announce the final, official results on Thursday. The Shafiq campaign has not acknowledged defeat and charges that results issued by the rival camp are untrue.
Besides curtailing the powers of the next president, the generals' declaration shields the military from civilian oversight of its affairs, grants it control of the national budget as well as the process of drafting a constitution.
Also Tuesday, a Cairo court postponed until Sept. 1 a case filed by a lawyer demanding that the Brotherhood be dissolved for failing to register with authorities in line with regulations governing the work of voluntary and charity groups. The Brotherhood was born in 1928, but spent most of the last 84 years as an outlawed group.
The lawyer, Shehata Mohammed Shehata, is arguing that failure to register has allowed the group to keep from official oversight its finances and activity.
If Morsi's victory is officially confirmed, it would be the first victory of an Islamist as head of state in the stunning wave of pro-democracy uprisings that swept the Middle East the past year. But the military's moves to retain power sharpen the possibility of confrontation and more of the turmoil that has beset Egypt since Mubarak's overthrow.
Implicit in the new political timeline spelled out in the constitutional declaration the next president might serve only one year of his four-year term and that the generals would remain in power at least until early next year. The next president has also been stripped of the title "Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces," giving the military near total independence from the executive branch.
The declaration says preparations for a new general election must start within a month of adopting a permanent constitution in a nationwide vote, something that is not likely to happen before late this year.
With a new constitution widely expected to redefine the nation's political system, including the powers of the legislative and executive branches, new presidential elections will most likely be inevitable soon thereafter.
The declaration gives the generals the right to replace the 100-member panel selected by the dissolved legislature last week to draft a new constitution. Liberals and others have boycotted the panel to protest what they said was its domination by Islamists, the same reason that led to the dissolution of a previous panel by a court ruling.