Islamist, Mubarak-era figure likely to go run-off
Egyptian demonstrators gather to denounce the electoral success of Ahmed Shafiq, a presidential candidate, in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt on Friday, May 25. Of 13 candidates running for the presidency, Shafiq, along with Mohammed Morsi, gained the largest number of votes during two days of presidential voting in Egypt.Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood candidate won a spot in the run-off election, according to partial results from Egypt’s first genuinely competitive presidential vote announced May 25. A member of the regime of ousted leader Hosni Mubarak and a leftist were in a tight race for second place and the chance to run against him, but the Brotherhood has predicted its candidate Mohammed Morsi will face former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq, a veteran of Mubarak’s rule, in the run-off election.
Representatives of the 12 candidates contesting the election witnessed the overnight vote count across the country and were present when the individual results were announced at each polling station. Judges overseeing the count then handed the official results of each station to the candidates’ representatives.
The Islamist group is compiling the results from around the country and will then announce them. Earlier, when ballots from half the polling stations had been counted, the Muslim Brotherhood put Mursi ahead with 30.8 percent, followed by Shafiq with 22.3 percent.
The run-off election will be held on June 16 and 17, pitting the two top contenders from the first round of voting, held May 23 and 24, against each other. The victor is to be announced June 21. Vote counting was still not complete from the country’s biggest metropolis, the capital Cairo, and its sister city Giza, which will likely decide the second-place finisher.
“There will be a run-off between Mursi and Shafiq,” the Islamist group said on its website after 90 percent of the votes were counted nationwide. That would pit the country’s two most divisive candidates against each other in a heated race.
Morsi’s Brotherhood, which already dominates Parliament, has promised to implement Islamic law in Egypt, alarming moderate Muslims, secular Egyptians and the Christian minority, who fear restrictions being placed on many of their rights. Though Morsi’s lead was solid, he garnered less than half the vote that the Brotherhood had raked in during parliamentary elections late last year, a sign of public disenchantment with the group.
Shafiq’s strong showing would have been unimaginable a year ago amid the public’s anti-regime fervor. Shafiq was Mubarak’s last prime minister and was forced out of office by protests several weeks after his former boss was ousted. A former air force commander and personal friend of Mubarak, he campaigned overtly as an “anti-revolution” candidate in the presidential election, criticizing the anti-Mubarak protesters.
He still inspires venom in many who believe he will preserve the Mubarak-style autocracy that the popular revolt sought to uproot. He has been met at public appearances by protesters throwing shoes.
But his rise underlines the frustration with the revolution felt by a broad swath of Egyptians. The 15 months since Mubarak fell and the military took over have seen continuous chaos, with a shipwrecked economy, a breakdown in public services, increasing crime and persistent protests that turned into bloody riots. That has left many craving stability.
By midafternoon on May 25, ballot counting had been completed in at least 24 of the country’s 27 provinces, representing more than half the votes cast. The election commission said turnout in the election’s first round was about 50 percent of more than 50 million eligible voters.
Morsi was in the lead with 26 percent of the ballots so far, according to the independent newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm, which was compiling official reports from counting stations. That is likely enough to secure him a spot in the run-off election.
But the race for second place was neck-and-neck between Shafiq with 23 percent and leftist Hamdeen Sabahi with 20 percent. Cairo and Giza, where around 20 percent of the votes nationwide were cast, are likely to be decisive in determining the second-place finisher. The vote counting there was expected to be finished late May 25 or early May 26.
Sabahi was a dark horse during months of campaigning but had a surprising surge in the days before voting began as Egyptians looked for an alternative to both Islamists and the former regime figures known as “feloul” (remnants). Sabahi is a leftist who claims the mantle of the nationalist, socialist ideology of Gamal Abdel Nasser, Egypt’s president from 1956 to 1970. “The results reflect that people are searching for a third alternative, those who fear a religious state and those who don’t want Mubarak’s regime to come back,” said Sabahi campaign spokesman Hossam Mounis.
A middle-ground figure, moderate Islamist Abdel-Moneim Abolfotoh, also performed below expectations, ranking fourth. The Brotherhood is hoping for a presidential victory to seal its political domination of Egypt, which would be a dramatic turnaround from the decades it was repressed under Mubarak. It already holds nearly half of Parliament after victories in elections late last year. The group has promised a “renaissance” in Egypt, not only reforming Mubarak-era corruption and reviving decrepit infrastructure, but also bringing a greater degree of rule by Islamic law.