Final votes were still being counted, but unofficial results yesterday indicated that the top two vote-getters out of 12 candidates in the first round of Egypt’s first free presidential election were the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Mursi and former Egyptian prime minister Ahmed Shafiq, a holdover from the regime of ousted Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. Both men yesterday reached out to the losing candidates ahead of a run-off next month.
On Friday night, the Brotherhood said it was seeking to create a coalition of forces to challenge Shafiq, reaching out to Mursi’s former rivals, including Abdel Moneim Abul Fotouh, who left the organization to run for president.
The Brotherhood reportedly sought a meeting with rivals yesterday afternoon, though it was not initially clear who might attend.
“We call on all sincere political and national forces to unite to protect the revolution and to achieve the pledges we took before our great nation,” the Brotherhood said.
“The slogan now is: ‘The nation is in danger,’” said Essam al-Erian, the deputy head of the Brotherhood’s political arm.
Shafiq also said he would seek broad support from former rivals, calling on each of his competitors by name to join him.
“I reach out to all the partners and I pledge that we will all work together for the good of Egypt,” he told a press conference yesterday.
Addressing the youth that spearheaded last year’s revolt, he said: “Your revolution has been hijacked and I am committed to bringing [it] back,” in an apparent reference to the Muslim Brotherhood, which already controls parliament.
“I pledge now, to all Egyptians, we shall start a new era. There is no going back,” he added.
A Shafiq-Mursi run-off looks likely to further polarize a nation that rose up against the authoritarian Mubarak 15 months ago, but has since suffered endemic violence and a declining economy.
The contest presents a difficult choice for activists who led the revolt against Mubarak. For them, choosing Shafiq would be to admit the revolution has failed, but a vote for Mursi could threaten the very freedoms they fought for.
Prominent activist and blogger Omar Kamel wrote: “Do we deliver Egypt to a representative of the old regime, as though nothing had happened, no revolution had taken place, or do we satisfy the [Brotherhood’s] greed for power and give them all but complete control of the country and risk the fate of the revolution to satisfy their ambitions?”
Independent analyst Hisham Kassem said the situation “is one of the most difficult political situations that Egypt has ever known.”
“We face the risk of maintaining the Mubarak regime, or Islamizing the country,” he said.
Independent daily al-Masry Al-Youm said: “The moment of truth. Post-revolution Egypt chooses between the Brotherhood and the General,” a reference to Shafiq’s days in the air force.
The electoral commission is expected to declare the official results on Tuesday, but tallies provided by the official MENA news agency and al-Ahram newspaper showed Mursi in first place and Shafiq in second.
Al-Erian said on Friday it was “completely clear” that Mursi and Shafiq had topped the presidential vote and would compete in the June 16 and 17 run-off.
He said Mursi had won 25.3 percent of the vote and Shafiq 24 percent, with pan-Arab socialist Hamdeen Sabahi at 22 percent.