As ballots cast in Egypt's presidential election continue to be counted on Sunday -- and as the country still reels in the shock occasioned by the dissolution of Parliament on Thursday -- Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, or SCAF, has renewed the military's commitment to hand over power to a civilian authority on July 1.
The renewal of this vow came in a phone conversation on Friday between Tantawi and U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, according to a statement by George Little, a U.S. Defense Department representative.
Secretary Panetta called Field Marshal Tantawi today to discuss current events in Egypt, including the recent Supreme Constitutional Court ruling on the Egyptian parliament, Little said. Secretary Panetta highlighted the need to move forward expeditiously with Egypt's political transition, including conducting new legislative elections as soon as possible.
According to Little, Field Marshal Tantawi reiterated the SCAF's commitment to hold free and fair presidential elections as scheduled and to transfer power to a democratically elected government by July 1.
Meanwhile, Ahram Online's coverage of Egypt's presidential-election race indicates Mohammed Morsi, the preferred candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, has an early lead over Ahmed Shafiq, a former cabinet minister under deposed President Hosni Mubarak.
However, the reported tally on Sunday as of 9 p.m. EDT includes no ballots cast in the Cairo governorate, which has the largest number of registered voters -- 6,497,887 -- in the country.