A mob has set fire late to the campaign headquarters of one of the two Egyptian presidential politicians facing each other in a runoff that will decide a new leader after last year’s popular uprising, the first sign of unrest after the voting yielded divisive candidates.
The attack late on Monday on Ahmed Shafiq’s office came just hours after the country’s election commission announced that he would face the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate, Mohammed Morsi, in a June 16 to 17 runoff.
The second round pitting Shafiq, who was former Egptian president Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister, against Morsi, backed by the country’s most powerful Islamist movement, is a nightmare scenario for the thousands of Egyptians who took to the streets last year to demand regime change, freedom and social equality.
Many of the so-called revolutionaries say they want neither a return to the old regime nor religious rule.
“The choice can’t be between a religious state and an autocratic state. Then we have done nothing,” said Ahmed Bassiouni, 35, who was sitting in Cairo’s downtown Tahrir Square in the midst of a growing protest.
In an upscale neighborhood of Cairo, mobs of young men used bricks to smash the windows of Shafiq’s headquarters, tossing out campaign signs and tearing up his posters. Then they set fire to the building. There were no reports of injuries. Police arrested eight people.
His campaign blamed supporters of leftist candidate Hamdeen Sabahi, who came in third in the race, and backers of another losing candidate, Khaled Ali, who was protesting the election results on Monday evening in Tahrir Square, the center of last year’s uprising.
Shortly after the protesters ransacked the campaign office, fire trucks and police arrived as several hundred of Shafiq’s supporters gathered outside the building, carrying his picture and chanting slogans against the Muslim Brotherhood, which controls the parliament and is now seeking the presidency.
“The Brotherhood are enemies of God!,” the crowd chanted.
The Morsi-Shafiq runoff is a polarizing contest. It mirrors the conflict between Mubarak, himself a career air force officer like Shafiq, and the Islamists he jailed and tortured throughout his years in power. However, it sidelines the mostly young, secular activists who led the popular uprising last year.
The commission reported on Monday that Morsi won close to 5.8 million votes, or almost 25 percent, while Shafiq received 5.5 million votes, or nearly 24 percent. Sabahi, a socialist, finished third with 4.8 million votes, or about 21 percent. Fourth place went to moderate Islamist Abdel-Moneim Abolfotoh. Turnout was about 50 percent.
In the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria, where Sabahi, a favorite among many revolutionaries, won the most votes, protesters tore down and burned large Shafiq and Morsi posters and protested against military rule.
In the Nile Delta provinces of Dakahliya and Mansoura, protesters took to the streets in similar protests. Security officials said protesters in Mansoura tried to attack the campaign offices of Morsi and Shafiq, but supporters of both candidates stopped the crowd.