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Egypt presidential elections: Fruit of Tahrir Square tastes bitter to some

Many Egyptians feel they can't vote for either candidate in the presidential election run-off.

By Correspondent / June 1, 2012

Egyptians protested May 28 against candidates Mohamed Morsi and Ahmed Shafiq at Cairo’s Tahrir Square.

Suhaib Salem/Reuters

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Cairo

A year ago, Ahmed Shafiq was laying low. Military rulers had sacked him from his post as prime minister when massive crowds in Tahrir Square, energized by their overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak, demanded that those associated with the Mubarak regime must also go.

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Today, Mr. Shafiq is in a runoff race to be president of Egypt.

Supporters see Shafiq as someone who can restore stability after a chaotic 18 months.

But his rise is worrying to many Egyptians, who fear a return to Mubarak-style governance if he wins. The other option, Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, represents for some a return to a one-party grip on power. Many Egyptians feel they can't vote for either man.

"This is not what we came and died in Tahrir Square for," says protester Ramy Mahmoud, who returned to the iconic square to express his frustration at initial presidential election results.

"When we came here before, we said we wanted freedom and justice. We wanted a new constitution and to get rid of the old regime," he says. "But we are not on the right path."

When a popular uprising toppled Mr. Mubarak last year, the oppressive system he built didn't fall with him – the abusive security apparatus, manipulative state media, and deep inequality remain intact. When military generals took power after his fall, they didn't touch the institutional infrastructure.

Millions of Egyptians who had poured into the streets to demand change postponed their hopes for a deeper transformation until a president could be elected and a new constitution put in place.

But a year and a half later, a constitution is not yet written, and Shafiq is within reach of the presidency. Those seeking real change in Egypt see little hope in a man who was part of the old regime, especially with no constitution to define his powers.

Concern about Muslim Brotherhood dominance

Some see a different threat in Mr. Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood's candidate. If he wins, the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), which holds a plurality of seats in parliament, will control both the legislative and executive branches of government.

That would concentrate power in the hands of one party, as was the case under Mubarak. The organization could then impose change the way it sees fit, instead of through a consultative process.

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