Mohamed Morsi, Ahmed Shafiq Enter Egypt’s Presidential Runoff
Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi is expected to face former prime minister Ahmed Shafiq in the presidential runoffs after the first round of elections, held on Wednesday and Thursday, in which participated thirteen candidates.
On Friday, it became clear that while many Egyptians cast their votes for the Islamist candidate, some of them voted for a secularist leader, who poses as a man capable of installing order in a society dominated by chaos after the fall of the regime of Hosni Mubarak.
Ahmed Shafiq, former prime minister during the last days of the Mubarak regime, has been disqualified on that ground last month, as a new law preventing the cronies of Mubarak regime were banned from participating in elections for public offices.
As it became clear that Shafiq was no crony of the former regime and that he had taken office at the end of it, he was reinstated and allowed to compete, and campaign with a message that is addressing the people who are troubled by the new changes made in their country by the fall of the regime.
His law and order message is said to have helped him overtake the two candidates considered favorites before the ballots, Amr Moussa, former foreign minister and secretary general of the Arab League, and Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, an Islamist and liberal who broke off with the Muslim Brotherhood.
Moussa had been considered a potential winner of the elections for most of the campaign, but his popularity sank before the one of Shafiq days before the vote, as he promised them to “save Egypt from the dark forces,” referring to the Islamists and especially to the Muslim Brotherhood.
Moussa was deemed by the analysts as the representative of those Egyptians who valued the Western values and way of life. Shafiq is said to have outpassed him because he was very vocal in promising the end of the old order and the return of a second revolution, if he got elected.
Fotouh, who had enlisted the support of iconic Mohamed ElBaradei, the great absent in this race, was the one to have challenged the right of the Muslim Brotherhood to claim itself as the voice of the political Islam.
He promised to put an end to the culture-war dichotomies of the Egyptian and Arab politics and was prejudiced by the alliance between the Brotherhood youth, the salafis and the leftists and liberals.
He accepted the backing of the salafists thereby losing the one of some of the liberals and leftists who shifted to a Socialist candidate, causing him to come in third, according to most tallies. The Socialist Hamdeen Sabahi collected the votes of those who voted both against the Islamist and the Mubarak cronies. He promised heavy taxes on the rich, more subsidies to the poor, a more involved state in the economy, and the end of the spirit of „camp Davis” accord with Israel.
Fotouh and Sabahi collected more votes taken together than Morsi or Shafiq, but neither of them will enter the runoff in June.
Mohamed Morsi had to turn his stance right to a more radical discourse in order to portray himself as the only Islamist in the race and the one who produces by his political program a distillation of the Islam itself. Thus, he had to participate in rallies which called for the enforcement of the Islamic law and supported the salafis.
This shift to radical Islamism may cost the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, as he can no longer project the image of centrist and moderate Islamist, causing the Christian Copts, who make 10 percent of the population, to vote for Shafiq in a bid to oppose an Islamist leader.
The Christians have instituted a lay committee to decide what is to become of their vote and they decided to offer it to Shafiq after considering whether they should give it to him or to Moussa. The fact that he has a military background offered them more confidence that he could deal with the security problems of the country.
New York Times reports that the fear of Islamism was stronger amid the Christians than the reluctance to vote someone connected to the army, after the army killed dozens in the protests a few months ago.
They said that there was no conspiracy of the military against the Christian Copts only a chaos which the military could not handle at the time. The generals have blamed the killings on the Copts who, in their opinion, scared the military.
The turnout for the vote is estimated to 50 million eligible people, who voted in orderly fashion without serious abuses reported. The runoff is expected to be held on June 16 and 17.11