CAIRO - Speculations about the health of deposed president Hosni Mubarak, who was sent to jail to serve life sentence, is casting a deep shadow over a run-off election to choose his successor.
"(Mubarak's) entourage has already used this way to gain the sympathy of the Egyptian people," Hassan Nafaa, a politics professor, told Reuters.
Mubarak, 84, was sent to jail earlier this month to serve a life sentence for complicity in killing more than 850 protestors during a popular revolt that swept him from power last year.
But since then, speculations have grown about the waning health of the deposed leader.
Mubarak's lawyer has said that he is in a critical state and being denied the basic rights of a prisoner to proper treatment.
A prison official said Mubarak was in a stable condition on Tuesday.
But critics see the reports about Mubarak's health as a bid to have Mubarak moved to a medical facility, sparing him the humiliation of a prison hospital.
They are worried that state institutions which kept him in office for 30 years are regrouping to reassert their grip after last year's popular uprising.
"We are in a very troubled moment," Nafaa, who campaigned against Mubarak's rule, said.
The speculations about Mubarak's health come days after a runoff election to choose his successor.
The June 16-17 vote features Muslim Brotherhood's candidate Mohamed Mursi and Ahmed Shafiq, Mubarak's last prime minister who was a top military officer like his ex-boss.
"The fact that you have Shafiq as a candidate for the presidency and that he has a real chance to be the next president does mean for me that the transitional period has been managed in a way to reach that result," said Nafaa.
Many Egyptians believe that their revolution have been stolen by the generals, who took over from Mubarak.
"I came here because of the futile verdict on Mubarak, said Osama Ahmed, 38, one of those who joined protests in Tahrir after the verdict, which also acquitted Mubarak's two sons and six top security officials.
People came here to have a revolution for the country, but they laughed at us and stole it from us.
The generals who took charge after Mubarak was toppled have overseen a messy and often bloody transition.
The final crucial step before the army formally hands over power to a new president is the election that gives Egyptians the chance to choose their leader for the first time in the history of a nation that stretches back to the pharaohs.
Yet, instead of uniting the country in the excitement of their first free presidential vote, the election has exposed deep divisions, with the outcome far from clear.
Adding to uncertainty, a constitutional court is expected to rule on Thursday, two days before the vote, on whether a law that would block Shafiq from running is constitutional.
It will also rule on a case that could lead to dissolving the recently elected Islamist-led parliament.
Those rulings could plunge Egypt into renewed political turbulence.
"The presidential race is clearly polarized between a member of the decades-old opposition group the Muslim Brotherhood and an official from Mubarak's administration," said Hassan Abo Taleb, a professor at Cairo University.
"But do not forget that most Egyptian voters chose candidates outside this equation."
Leftist Hamdeen Sabahy and former Brotherhood member Abdel Moneim Abul-Futuh, who came third and fourth in the first round, together secured about 40 percent of votes cast.
Shafiq and Mursi each won less than a quarter of the ballots.
Sabahy and Abul-Futuh have criticized both run-off candidates, although Abul-Futuh grudgingly said voters should back Mursi.The April 6 movement which galvanized the anti-Mubarak revolt also reluctantly threw its weight behind Mursi.