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Likely Egypt election runoff: Muslim Brother vs. Mubarak man (+video)

According to initial returns from Egypt's presidential election, Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood and Ahmed Shafiq, Mubarak's prime minister, are likely to face off in next month's runoff.

By Correspondent / May 25, 2012

An Egyptian woman shows her inked finger after voting during the second day of presidential elections inside a polling station in the Mataraya neighborhood of Cairo, Egypt, May 24. Egyptians voted Thursday on the second day of a landmark presidential election that will produce a successor to longtime authoritarian ruler Hosni Mubarak.

Fredrik Persson/AP

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Cairo

Initial returns from Egypt’s first post-revolution presidential election indicate that the race is headed to the most polarizing showdown possible: a runoff between the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate, Mohamed Morsi, and the candidate most closely associated with former President Hosni Mubarak’s regime, Ahmed Shafiq. 

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Official results will not be announced until next week. But according to Dr. Morsi’s campaign, which has observers at each vote-counting station and says 90 percent of the vote has been counted, he and Mr. Shafiq are leading and will advance to a runoff. If the Brotherhood is correct, the race between the two figures will sharpen the bitter divide between Islamists and remnants of the Mubarak regime and could plunge Egypt into further instability.

It also leaves many Egyptians, those who support the revolution but don’t want a strongly Islamist president, feeling disenfranchised. Some counts suggest Hamdeen Sabbahi, a proponent of Gamal Abdel Nasser's pan-Arab ideology who ran on a populist platform, was fairly close, coming in third place with some votes yet to be counted.

The runoff, schedule for June 16 and 17, will put tremendous pressure on Egypt’s transition, just two weeks before the interim military rulers have promised to hand over power.

Surprising rise of Shafiq, Mubarak's prime minister

Though Morsi was not depicted as a front-runner in polls leading up to the race, he is backed by the most organized political machine in the post-revolution uprising. His strong emphasis on religious rhetoric and promises to implement sharia, or Islamic law, energized his base while frightening many secularist Egyptians.

Shafiq’s rise, however, is surprising to some. His impressive showing – less than a year and a half after Egyptians revolted against the regime he was a part of – means that Egypt could see a president who condemned the very uprising that made his campaign possible.

After the uprising against Mubarak’s regime began in January, the embattled president appointed Shafiq as prime minister in a cabinet shakeup intended to appease the protesters. Shafiq remained in this post when regime-backed thugs attacked the protesters gathered in Tahrir Square. He is seen as the preferred candidate of the military, which has appeared reluctant to give up its power and privileges when it transfers power to a civilian government.

Khalil al-Anani, an expert on Islamist movements at Durham University in Britain, says Shafiq's rise is due to the organization of the remnants of Mubarak’s regime, a backlash against the Brotherhood, and a transition period mismanaged by Egypt’s military, which left many Egyptians craving stability and security. It was also aided by the fragmentation of the secularist-liberal vote, which was split between several candidates.

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