CAIRO: Egyptian security forces closed Cairo's famed Tahrir Square with barbed wire, giant gates and metal detectors for planned celebrations Tuesday ahead of the announcement of official results from egypt's presidential election, expected to confirm the victory of former military chief Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.
El-Sissi - who last summer ousted egypt's first democratically elected president, the Islamist Mohammed Morsi - won last week's election in a landslide over his sole rival, according to unofficial results released by his campaign.
The results, and the swearing in on Sunday, crown the rise of the retired field marshal, who has led a crackdown crushing Morsi's Islamist supporters the last 11 months and vows to restore stability and repair the dilapidated economy after three years of turmoil. Critics, however, fear the career military man will bring back aspects of the authoritarian rule of Hosni Mubarak, toppled in a popular uprising in 2011.
The Interior Ministry, in charge of police, said it had deployed forces, set up gates and diverted traffic from Tahrir Square ahead of celebrations expected after the announcement of results in the evening. Tahrir was the epicenter of the 2011 uprising, where crowds of protesters camped for 18 days until Mubarak's downfall. Since Morsi's removal, security forces consolidated its grip over the square to prevent Morsi's Islamist supporters from rallying in it.
El-Sissi is expected to be sworn in Sunday before egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court. The swearing in ceremony will witness large gathering from Arab Gulf countries, main backers of el-Sissi and foes to Islamists.
El-Sissi is hailed by his supporters as a strongman who liberated egypt from Islamists and can end the country's instability. But el-Sissi has said it will take 25 years to bring a real democracy and has spoken out against too many freedoms that cause turmoil, amid an already shrinking space for political activity.
In the latest sign, egypt's most popular satirist Bassem Youssef announced Monday that his landmark weekly TV show, egypt's answer to Jon Stewart's "The Daily Show," which lambasted presidents and politicians, has been cancelled because of pressure on the station airing it and a climate in the country that no longer accepts satire.
In more alarming step, the Interior Ministry, in charge of police, announced plans to set a new surveillance system over the Internet to monitor social networking sites for a wide range of forms of dissent, as well as for extremist activity. On Monday, Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim announced the plans, insisting they did not aim to infringe on freedom of expression.
But an Interior Ministry document on the plans published by the pro-military newspaper Al-Watan listed a wide variety of perceived threats on social media, which the document said is used to express "contempt for religion," ''spread rumors and tarnish facts with bad intentions," ''humiliate through mockery", " and encourage "extremism, violence, rebellion, rallying for demonstrations, sit-ins and illegal strikes."
"In light of such grave and dangerous security challenges," the document said, "the ministry decided to set up a system to spot security dangers on social media through expansive search process." The document said the ministry had asked companies to present bids to set up the monitoring system.
Social media were one of the main vehicles for engineering the 2011 uprising that led to Mubarak's fall and the collapse of its police apparatus.
Hazem Abdel-Azem, a former IT official and now a member of el-Sissi's presidential campaign, told the private CBC TV network that previously the ministry monitored the Internet "manually" and that now it is looking for "a new system."
The announcement raised a storm of outrage on egyptian social media sites. Some activists, however, said the plans may aim more to intimidate, since monitoring software is widely available on line.
"I think the report was only meant to create panic among users of social media," said Hossam el-Hamalawy, an activist in the Revolutionary Socialists, in a comment on his Facebook page.