CAIRO (AP) - Egypt's military rulers were quick to take credit Tuesday for a strong turnout in the first elections since Hosni Mubarak's ouster, a vote that appeared to be the country's freest and fairest in living memory.
The military did not field candidates in the parliamentary vote. But winning bragging rights for a smooth, successful and virtually fraud-free election would significantly boost the ruling generals in their bitter struggle with youthful protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square calling for them to transfer power immediately to a civilian authority.
"When we plan, we execute and, at the end, we succeed," Maj. Gen. Ismail Etman, a member of the ruling military council, said in a television interview. He compared the elections to one of the Egyptian military's proudest moments - when they battled Israeli forces across the Suez Canal in 1973.
"The armed forces pulled off this election like they pulled off the crossing in 1973," he said.
Even before two days of voting began Monday, protesters were accusing the military of trying to cling to power and safeguard its interests under any future government. Now, they warn the ruling council will try to use the success of the election to cement its hold on power.