A showdown between the Muslim Brotherhood and Egypt's ruling military council escalated Friday, as the generals blamed the Islamist organization for stoking public tensions by prematurely asserting victory in last week's presidential election, and the Islamist candidate said a national front was forming to defy military moves to consolidate power.
The dueling statements were delivered as tens of thousands of Egyptians swarmed into Cairo's Tahrir Square for a Brotherhood-led protest against those moves, which include a constitutional decree giving the armed forces vast authority and weakening the future president.
As the crowd swelled, the generals issued a statement defending the decree as in the nation's interest and vowing swift and firm action against those who fueled unrest.
Egypt's presidential election commission had been expected to announce the winner in the presidential election runoff on Thursday, but the proclamation was postponed. Mohamed Morsi, the Brotherhood's candidate, has claimed victory and provided precinct tally reports as evidence. His rival, Ahmed Shafiq, widely presumed to be the military's candidate, has also said he won the election but has not offered evidence.
Friday's military statement called the announcement of unofficial results unjustified and "one of the main reasons behind the prevailing division and confusion in the political arena."
Hours after the military statement, Morsi said at a news conference he would await the final results, which election officials say will be released once they have reviewed complaints about irregularities.
He appeared to rebuke the military council, for its recent moves to expand its powers and its warnings against peaceful protests. He also damped speculation that the Brotherhood is brokering a deal with the generals behind closed doors.
"The constitutional declaration clearly implies attempts by the military council to restrict the incoming president," he said. "This we totally reject.'
Morsi said the Brotherhood had been meeting for two days with a range of political activists and intellectuals who had agreed to join forces in support of a smooth transfer of power.
But he also appeared disinclined to provoke the military, and he ended his statement with conciliatory words for the ruling generals.
"They are honest men working for the betterment of Egypt," Morsi said. "They are working to safeguard our land."
As he has done in the past, Morsi sought to reassure those skeptical about an Islamist president, saying he would form a broad-based cabinet led by an independent prime minister and including women and Christians.