Egyptian voters will choose from polar opposites in presidential runoff

Egyptian officials announced today that Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, and Ahmed Shafiq, Mubarak's last prime minister, will face each other in a June runoff.

Reuters/File
Ahmed Shafiq, left, and Mohamed Morsi, right, will face each other in a June run-off election in Egypt. Shafiq is a former prime minister under ousted Egyptian strongman Mubarak, while Morsi is a leading figure in the Muslim Brotherhood.

A Muslim Brotherhood leader will compete with the last prime minister of ousted President Hosni Mubarak to be the next president of Egypt, election officials confirmed today.

The official announcement, which cannot be appealed, finalizes what many had suspected since votes were tallied Friday in Egypt’s first presidential election after a popular uprising pushed Mr. Mubarak from power. Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate, and Ahmed Shafiq, a member of Mubarak’s former regime, will advance to a runoff in mid-June. Out of a field of 13 candidates, Dr. Morsi received nearly 25 percent of the vote, while Mr. Shafiq garnered 24 percent.

The election commission overseeing the vote said that about 46 percent of more than 50 million registered voters participated in the election. The commission also denied the appeals filed by several runner-up candidates, who alleged that fraud and violations had affected the results.

But the legal drama is not yet over: Egypt’s high constitutional court has yet to rule on a law passed by parliament that bans members of Mubarak’s regime from politics. Shafiq was disqualified under the new law, but the election commission reinstated his candidacy. Adding to the complications, the constitutional court is not expected to give the final word on the issue until just before the second round of voting.

Some Egyptians are upset that the two most polarizing candidates advanced to the next round with only a quarter of the vote each, while about half of those who voted cast ballots for neither one. Morsi and Shafiq have already begun maneuvering to woo those who voted for other candidates, particularly the non-Islamist “revolutionaries,” many of whom reject both candidates.

Shafiq, who was prime minister as Mubarak tried to quell the uprising, and who has expressed his admiration of his former boss and his disdain for the revolution, changed his tune in a press conference Saturday. He addressed the young activists who sparked the revolution, saying, “your revolution was stolen,” and pledging to return it to them.

Morsi, meanwhile, has called for meetings with the third- and fourth-place candidates, both of whom are seen as pro-revolution figures, in an apparent attempt to gain their support in the next round. Members of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party have called on political forces to rally around Morsi to defeat the old regime.

Negotiations with other parties or coalitions will be difficult, however, given the promises the Brotherhood has broken over the past year, says Mustapha Kamel Al Sayyid, a political science professor at the American University in Cairo.

“They say something, but they do the opposite, and this does not encourage confidence in their promise,” says Dr. Sayyid. Over the past year, the Brotherhood went back on its pledge to contest only 30 percent of parliamentary seats; broke a promise not to run a presidential candidate; and sought to dominate the committee formed to write a new constitution, after pledging to make it an inclusive process.

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