Arsonists in Cairo torched the campaign headquarters Monday night of Ahmed
Shafiq, a presidential frontrunner many Egyptians despise as a decades-long
confidant of deposed president Hosni Mubarak.
Analysts said the move
could backfire and help grant Shafiq the “Mr. Security” label he seeks,
but only if the candidate is able to shake his association with the disgraced
Shafiq’s rival in the June 16-17 runoff is the Muslim
Brotherhood’s Mohamed Mursi.
For the youth revolutionaries who brought
down Mubarak in an 18-day revolt last year, the choice appears to be one between
a remnant of the old regime and a representative of a potentially equally
repressive Islamic autocracy.
“A win by either Shafiq or Mursi will leave
many sectors in Egypt with a real feeling of frustration,” said Prof. Yoram
Meital, the chair of the Chaim Herzog Center for Middle East Studies at
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.
“The presidential elections are
supposed to help bring stability, but it seems the result may be just the
Meanwhile on Tuesday, Egyptian presidential candidate Mohamed
Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood vowed that, should he be elected, he would
respect women’s right to “work in all areas, and to choose the way they dress,”
There will be “no imposition on women to wear the veil” if
he wins, Mursi told a press conference.
If Mursi, who garnered the most
votes in the first round of voting in Egypt’s first undecided presidential
election last week, succeeds in the run-off election in mid-June, then Islamists
will hold both a majority in parliament and dominate the executive
Following the release of first-round election results Monday
night, thousands of Egyptians marched through Cairo chanting, “No to Shafiq and
to the Brotherhood. The revolution is still in the square.”
campaign said the main villa of the compound in the upscale Dokki neighborhood
escaped the flames, but that protesters smashed computers and other equipment
The website of Youm a-Sabaa
newspaper showed video footage of one
of the compound’s buildings engulfed in flames. Sprayed in graffiti on one of
the undamaged walls were the words, “No to Shafiq, no to feloul,” – Arabic for
“remnants” of the Mubarak-era government.
Egypt’s official MENA news
agency reported four people had been detained in connection with the attack, but
said they were not Islamists. Two, it said, were members of a centrist party and
another was a member of a liberal party.
“We can only hope this rage and
frustration won’t lead to more violence,” Meital said.
“Shafiq is trying
to bolster his image as ‘Mr. Security,’ but in the eyes of many, he’s first and
foremost a Mubarak man. And Israeli officials’ expressions of support for Shafiq
only strengthen opposition to him.”
Raphael Israeli, a professor emeritus
of Middle East Studies at Hebrew University, said instability in Egypt could
push voters to choose the former air force chief, who briefly served as premier
in Mubarak’s final days.
“No one feels any stability at the moment,”
Israeli said, but added that Shafiq cannot at once claim to be the security
candidate while at the same time playing down his Mubarak
“Shafiq can’t claim to not be connected to Mubarak, and at
the same time say he’s Mr. Security because he was air force chief under
Mubarak,” Israeli said. “You can’t have it both ways.”
In Cairo on
Tuesday, some protesters held posters of Mursi with a cross over his face.
Still, most chanted against Shafiq, who has support from many ordinary Egyptians
who long for a strongman to restore Egypt’s stability and revive the country’s
In Alexandria, Egypt’s second city and an Islamist
stronghold, dozens of protesters marched, holding banners against the former
prime minister. “No to Ahmed Shafiq, a man of the previous regime,” read
, a newspaper identifying with the youth
revolutionaries who brought down Mubarak, reported that both Shafiq and Mursi
are trying to garner support from prominent centrists ahead of next month’s
One target for both campaigns, it said, was Mohamed ElBaradei,
the former head of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency
(IAEA). Mursi’s campaign is considering offering ElBaradei the
premiership, it reported, and Shafiq’s team has also reached out to ElBaradei
with promises of a senior position.
On Tuesday, Amr Moussa, an exforeign
minister and former presidential front-runner, condemned the torching of
“The attacks were inappropriate,” Moussa wrote in Arabic
on his Twitter feed, adding that “the presidential election should be free of
all violence.”Reuters contributed to this report.