Egypt’s Presidential Frontrunners Seek Broad Support

Posted May 26th, 2012 at 8:25 am (UTC-5)
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Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood has invited losing presidential candidates to a Saturday meeting in a bid to gain support for its candidate, Mohammed Morsi, who appears headed to a runoff against secularist Ahmed Shafiq.

A spokesman for the Islamist group urged the 10 other candidates to save the “revolution” as he announced the meeting on Friday.

Meanwhile, at a Saturday news conference, Shafiq pledged there would be “no going back” to the old regime. He served as former President Hosni Mubarak's last prime minister before Mr. Mubarak lost power in last year's pro-democracy protests.

Unofficial results from Wednesday and Thursday's election indicate Morsi was the top vote-getter, trailed closely by Shafiq.

VOA Correspondent Elizabeth Arrott says a runoff between Morsi and Shafiq would offer Egyptians a stark choice between candidates from divergent paths.

“They are a very polarizing choice for many Egyptians and because of the voter turnout, which was estimated lower than 50 percent. Both of these men got around 25 percent. Neither of them have very much support. They offer a very, very stark choice of two visions of Egypt, one of the Islamist and one of the continuing military influence on the government. The latter is what the revolution aimed to overthrow, so, you would have people who would be very much against that and also people who are worried about an Islamist government.”

Final results are expected to be announced Tuesday. The runoff would be held on June 16 and 17.

Shafiq is a former air force commander. He was appointed prime minister in hopes of appeasing the popular revolt. But because of the connection to Mr. Mubarak, he is viewed with some suspicion by activists involved in the 2011 movement and some other voters.

During the campaign, Morsi delivered fiery speeches and vowed his presidency would be based on Islam but not be a theocracy.

A win for Morsi would boost the political clout of Islamist parties who were backed by more than 70 percent of voters in parliamentary elections just six months ago.

Unofficial results show independent candidate Hamdeen Sabahi also fared well and could gain on Shafiq. He rose steadily in opinion polls over the past week, attracting voters who wanted neither an Islamist or a former regime figure.

Some of the other 12 candidates who fared well include Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, a moderate Islamist supported by some liberals, leftists and minority Christians, and former foreign minister Amr Moussa, a secularist who served under Mr. Mubarak.

Whoever wins faces massive challenges. Egypt's economy has collapsed as the key tourism industry dried up, crime has increased and labor strikes have proliferated.