The Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate has won a commanding victory in absentee
voting for Egypt’s presidency, Egyptian diplomats said on Monday, buoyed by
support from the expatriate community in Saudi Arabia – the world’s
With results from 33 diplomatic missions counted, the
Brotherhood’s Mohamed Mursi came in far ahead of competitors with 106,252 votes,
the AFP news agency reported, followed by his rival Islamist Abdel Moneim Abol
Fotouh with 77,499.
Hamdeen Sabahy, a leftist nationalist, came in third
with 44,727 ballots, with former foreign minister Amr Moussa and expremier Ahmed
Shafiq rounding out the top five.
The figures were heavily determined by
Monday’s publication of results from Saudi Arabia, home to an Egyptian
expatriate community of 1.5 million. Absentee voters in the kingdom gave Mursi
68,443 votes, or nearly half of the total, followed by Abol Fotouh with 26
percent and Sabahi with 11%.
The rankings were the same in Kuwait, which
hosts the world’s second-largest Egyptian expat community, though Mursi’s margin
over Abol Fotouh was significantly smaller.
The results came a day after
the Brotherhood staged 25 simultaneous campaign events in an impressive display
of the organizing power that brought it fully half of all parliamentary seats in
elections earlier this year.
Well-known Islamic preachers and soccer
celebrities took to the podium in Cairo to endorse Mursi, a relative latecomer
to the race whose rivals include Islamists and exofficials of former president
With official campaigning ending on Sunday, fireworks
cracked in the night air and flames flared from the front of the stage as Mursi
arrived to address the audience of several thousand gathered in central
Youths wearing Mursi T-shirts gathered at the front chanting
“Mursi, Mursi” to the beat of drums. “God willing, Mursi will be president after
the first round,” they chanted.
The election that starts on Wednesday is
the last stage in a messy transition to democracy, overseen by generals who took
control after Mubarak was driven out and have pledged to hand power to a new
president by July 1.
Mursi promised to combat any corrupt hangers-on from
“If they take a step to take us backwards, to forge the
will [of the people] and fiddle with security, we know who they are,” he said.
“We will throw them in the rubbish bin of history.”
Mursi was pitched
into the race as the Brotherhood’s reserve candidate when its first choice,
Khairat al-Shater, was disqualified.
Critics see Mursi as a dull
functionary who lacks the spark of leadership.
Mohamed Abdel Maqsoud, a
Salafi preacher who took the stage to endorse Mursi, made light of his reserve
status, saying no one went on a trip without a “spare tire” and that substitutes
could win soccer matches.
Maqsoud said Egypt should follow the example of
Turkey, where the presidency and parliament were controlled by one party and
where the influence of the army had been gradually rolled back. Many expect
Egypt’s army to remain influential for years.
“God willing, I will vote
for them and most people in the town will do so as well.
No one served us
better than the Brotherhood,” said Ahmed Youssef, a 41-year-old employee in a
state telephone office in the large Delta town of Tanta.
“My dear friend
here will do the same, won’t you?” he said, turning to a 40-yearold street
vendor, Mohamed Sherif al-Din.
“Mursi is a Brotherhood man and this group
is the one that hires our kids and brings us goods that we don’t find in the
market. God bless them and him,” said Sherif al-Din, who was cycling around
Tanta handing out Mursi flyers.
“Religion is in the blood of people, and
not everyone is exposed to media, so its voice isn’t heard,” said Ismail Farouk,
a Mursi campaigner in the southern town of Sohag.
In Sohag and elsewhere,
the Brotherhood is touting local initiatives as part of its national
“renaissance project” to win over voters angry at years of neglect by the
government in Cairo.
Brotherhood campaigners play up Mursi’s appeal as
its anointed choice to lead Egypt, in contrast to Abol Fotouh, who was ejected
from the Brotherhood last year and is seen as another front-runner for the
Abol Fotouh is pitching to voters across the spectrum, from
hard-line Salafis to mainstream Islamists and liberals. The Brotherhood is
selling Mursi as the authentic religious conservative.
advertisements for Mursi show him in a short beard accompanied by the slogan:
“Renaissance comes through the will of the people,” with no mention of
Mursi banners in the industrial and agricultural Delta region
north of Cairo show his beard whiter and much longer, to suggest great piety.
The dominant slogan changes to “Egypt’s renaissance with an Islamic
A Brotherhood strategist in Cairo, Mostafa Abdel Ghafar,
played down the criticism of Mursi’s leadership talents.
“I think all
people noticed that our campaign is not for Mursi as a person, but for the
group’s renaissance project, which Egyptians have heard about for a year,” he
But the headwinds for the Brotherhood seem stronger than before the
parliamentary election, when its long struggle against a monolithic Mubarak
establishment finally paid off.
“There is no way I would vote for the
Muslim Brotherhood in the presidential vote, as so far they have brought us
nothing but chaos,” said Ahmed Rafaie, a 32- year-old in Tanta.