The two front-runners in Egypt’s presidential race jostled for support on Sunday
from voters dismayed at what many see as a painful second-round choice between a
dour Islamist candidate and a throwback to Hosni Mubarak’s era.
majority of votes counted, figures cited by state media and party campaigns this
weekend put Mohamed Mursi, an obscure Muslim Brotherhood insider, in first place
with 25.3 percent of the vote, barely edging former air force chief Ahmed Shafiq
Both men are seeking to lay claim to the mantle of the
“revolution” that toppled former president Hosni Mubarak 15 months
Hatem Begato, the head of the electoral committee, said it was
considering complaints about voting practices filed by four candidates - Shafiq,
leftist Hamdeen Sabahy, Islamist Abdel Moneim Abol Fotouh and former Arab League
chief Amr Moussa.
Partial results show those candidates came in third,
fourth and fifth place respectively.
Official results are expected Monday
The election’s biggest surprise was the trouncing suffered by
Moussa – who won a majority only in the South Sinai governorate – and strong
showing of Sabahy, who led in the pivotal Cairo and Alexandria governorates,
according to Al- Ahram newspaper. The daily reported Abol Fotouh, a former
Brotherhood leader, came out on top only in Egypt’s thinly populated Western
The polarized first-round results have led to suggestions –
swiftly rejected by the Brotherhood – that Mursi should withdraw to allow Sabahy
to go through to the second round.
“This is unconstitutional,” said Essam
el-Erian, a leader of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, adding that
if Mursi quit at this stage, Shafiq would win by default.
Brotherhood, which already dominates both houses of parliament after earlier
elections, wants to draw rival parties into a broad front to beat Shafiq in the
June 16 and 17 runoff.
“We have to organize the movement on the street
with the grassroots to support the revolution because the old regime is coming
back with Shafiq,” said a Mursi spokesman, Yasser Ali.
open-minded and open-hearted with all political groups, especially the
revolutionary groups, to organize and form a coalition government, soon after
Mursi becomes president.”
Ali said Mursi might meet Abol Fotouh and other
leaders, possibly including Sabahy, later Sunday.
The campaigns of
Sabahy, Abol Fotouh and Moussa denied reports they would lend their support to
Mursi in the runoff, Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper reported.
Sabahy said at
a press conference Saturday he would in no circumstances agree to be Mursi’s
“I won’t accept a position or a title,” he told
supporters. “I won’t compromise.”
For his part, Shafiq is reaching
out to young activists who despise him as a figure from the past.
revolution was stolen,” he said at a news conference, alluding to Islamists. “I
pledge to return its fruits to your hands.”
Meanwhile Sunday, a Cairo
criminal court sentenced Mubarak’s former chief of staff to seven years in jail
and fined him $6 million on charges of making illegal gains, the state news
agency MENA reported.
Zakaria Azmi has been held since April 2011 on
charges of amassing wealth unlawfully.
He is among several officials from
Mubarak’s administration detained on corruption and other
Mubarak, 84, is also under investigation for graft, abuse of
power and ordering the killing of protesters during the 18-day uprising that
ousted him on February 11, 2011. The verdict is due on June 2.
turbulence since the uprising has aggravated economic problems that will loom
large for any president who takes over from military rulers who took charge when
Mubarak fell and is expected to retain a strong role for years to come.
Brotherhood victory in the presidential election could prolong a struggle with
the military over the drafting of a new constitution, already mired in political
But a Mursi triumph is no foregone conclusion. Many voters may
stay away from the second round, seeing both candidates as
Similiarly, many Christians, who make up about 10% of
Egypt’s 82 million people, are likely to swing behind Shafiq, viewing him as a
bulwark against rising Islamist influence.
“The Brotherhood has not given
us any assurances or promises to make us not fear for our freedoms and faith
under their rule,” said a Coptic church official who asked not to be
Asked about Christian fears, Mursi told a television interviewer
on Saturday night that “Egypt belongs to all,” asking, “Who killed them in
protests? Who prevented them from building churches? The old regime, not us.”