Top 2 Egyptian Presidential Contenders Reach Out to Rivals

Posted May 26th, 2012 at 6:20 pm (UTC-5)
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The top two vote-getters in Egypt's first round of presidential elections reached out to their rivals Saturday and described their visions of building a new Egypt if elected in next month's run-off.

Former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq, a secularist, has praised the “glorious” revolution that toppled President Hosni Mubarak, and vowed there will be no “re-creation” of the old regime. Shafiq said he was extending his hand to all political forces, especially the young people, who were the backbone of the uprising, and said nobody will be excluded or pushed aside by the new government.

“Egypt is for everyone. No one will be excluded and no one will be pushed aside. Everyone must have a share in this nation.”

But Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Mursi dismissed Shafiq as a symbol of the old regime and refused any cooperation with it, saying it ruined the country. He promised to create a new regime based on one that is inclusive of all forces in the country.

Mursi repeatedly stressed the world “democracy,” trying to allay fears of secular opponents. He said, “Our goal is stability, development, freedom, democracy, and a new country based on the constitution. But opponents accuse Mursi of supporting a theocracy, based on the Quran and Islamic Sharia law.

Unofficial results from the first round of polling this past Wednesday and Thursday show Mursi was the top vote-getter, followed closely by Shafiq.

Final results will be announced Tuesday and the run-off is scheduled for June 16 and 17.

VOA correspondent Elizabeth Arrott says a run-off between Mursi 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.”

Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter, whose Carter Center was among several groups that independently monitored the elections, said Saturday the voting process appeared to be fair. But he said the refusal by authorities to let monitors see the results at some polling stations undermined the “overall transparency of the process.”

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

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