The dispute highlights how the country has been split into deeply polarized camps since the June 16-17 runoff vote between the Muslim Brotherhood's candidate Mohammed Morsi and ousted leader Hosni Mubarak's last prime minister Ahmed Shafiq, with both campaigns claiming victory by a narrow margin.
Many Egyptians have rallied behind Morsi as a chance to finally rid the country of the old Mubarak regime, while others support Shafiq as the best bet to counter Islamists and restore order after a year of protests, economic hardship, and fear about crime and continued instability.
But there is little hope that the results will lead to an end to 16 months of political turmoil. A Morsi victory will likely see the new civilian government fight for its authority against a military that has ensured its powers persist past the transition. A Shafiq victory will be seen by large sections of the public as illegitimate, as he is perceived as the favored candidate of the military rulers that appointed the election commission.
The commission postponed official results that had been scheduled to be announced on Thursday, leading to speculation that the military rulers are using the results as a bargaining chip in backroom negotiations with the Brotherhood about post-election division of powers.
In addition to a Morsi or Shafiq victory, a third possibility is that Egypt remains in political limbo: The elections commission may decide to annul the runoff vote and call for new elections in some or all constituencies due to allegations of irregularities by both sides.
Farouk Sultan, the head of the Supreme Presidential Election Commission, said Saturday the results would be announced the next day but did not give further details.
Underlying the tensions are a series of rulings and decrees just before and during the vote that have been perceived as a push by the military to monopolize power and leave the president with only limited authority.
The military has pledged to hand over power to civilian rule by July 1. But on June 15, the country's highest court dissolved the country's Islamist-led parliament, calling the law under which it had been elected unconstitutional. Two days later the generals issued a declaration in which they gave themselves legislative powers.
On Saturday, Maj. General Mahmdouh Shaheen, a member of the ruling council and its legal adviser, would not comment on negotiations with the Brotherhood. He said there are no plans to amend the constitutional declaration entrenching the executive and legislative powers of the generals.