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Associated Press/Photo by Amr Nabil

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Egypt | The life of Egypt's former president and the country's political future hang in the balance

Egyptians are amassing in Cairo's Tahrir Square during the most politically volatile moment since the country's 18-day revolution in February 2011.

Two nation-altering developments hang in the balance: The life-or-death of former President Hosni Mubarak and the outcome of controversial presidential elections that could spark a new wave of revolutionary protests. The country's election commission is set to declare results of the presidential run-off on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Egyptian officials denied reports that Mubarak was "clinically dead" after a series of strokes on Tuesday. But security officials didn't deny reports that doctors had placed the former dictator on life support after his health quickly deteriorated in a prison hospital.

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Mubarak began serving a life sentence on June 2 for his role in the deaths of protesters during last year's Tahrir Square demonstrations. Those demonstrations led to his ouster, and officials reported that Mubarak suffered a series of health crises while he awaited his trial and conviction.

After his health failed again on Tuesday, officials transported Mubarak from a prison hospital to another medical facility in a Cairo suburb. Dozens of demonstrators amassed outside the hospital on Tuesday night-some supporting the former leader and others condemning him.

The BBC reported that one supporter declared, "I love him more than my father." Another demonstrator said, "We are poor, and he did nothing for us. His family ate meat and we were starving."

Across town in Tahrir Square, tens of thousands of demonstrators aren't focused on Mubarak. Instead, the swelling crowds are gathering ahead of an anticipated announcement on Thursday from the country's election commission to declare the winner from last week's presidential run-off.

The announcement could prove explosive. Both candidates have claimed victory in a contest that represents a showdown between competing ideologies: a throwback to former military rule or a move toward distinctly Islamic rule.

Candidate Ahmed Shafiq-a former air force general-served as prime minister under Mubarak. His opponent-Mohammed Morsi-represents the Muslim Brotherhood's political party and a conservative strain of Islam.

Morsi's background in the Muslim Brotherhood has led many of Egypt's Coptic Christians to support Shafiq. Though Morsi has tried to ease Christians' fears that his presidency would prove oppressive, many Coptic point to the candidate's past positions: Morsi led the Brotherhood's drafting of a political platform in 2007 that included proposals that a council of Islamic scholars should review government legislation to ensure it comports with Islamic law.

The Brotherhood has enjoyed growing influence in Egypt since last year's revolution, most notably winning nearly 50 percent of the seats in parliamentary elections. But the country's courts and ruling military council have dramatically pushed back against the group's power.

The country's Supreme Court moved to dissolve parliament last week, saying that the elections were unconstitutional. By Sunday night, the military council made sweeping declarations regarding its own power in a move that subordinates the next president and gives military generals power in legislating and controlling the process of drafting a new constitution.

Islamists poured into to Tahrir Square this week to protest the military action that some called a coup. That angst could grow worse if the military-appointed election commission declares Shafiq the winner of presidential elections on Thursday. During mass protests on Tuesday, the sentiment of thousands of chanting protesters was clear: "Down with military rule."

Jamie Dean
Jamie Dean

Jamie lives and works in North Carolina, where she covers the national political beat and other topics as news editor for WORLD. Follow Jamie on Twitter @deanworldmag.

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