Egyptian Presidential Candidates Prepare for Runoff Election
May 30, 2012
By: Garrett Nada | Printer Friendly
Egyptians went to the polls to select their new president on May 23-24. The turnout was far lower than expected, as only about 46 percent of eligible voters participated in the election. 13 candidates ran and five were serious contenders, so the political field was divided. Therefore, no candidate earned a majority of the votes. Only two candidates received enough votes to move onto the runoff election, slated for June 16-17. The election will be between the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate, Mohamed Morsy, who garnered 24.77 percent of the votes, and President Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister and former air force commander, Ahmed Shafiq, who received 23.66 percent of the votes.
The two candidates offer diametrically opposed visions for the future of Egypt. While Morsy speaks about the benefits of implementing Sharia law, Shafiq promises to restore security with an “iron fist” and to “neutralize” the Islamists. The National Reported that many Egyptians, especially secular and liberal voters, feel the revolution has been hijacked and they must choose between the lesser of two evils. Many of them voted for Hamdeen Sabahi, the socialist candidate who took third place, trailing Shafiq by 600,000 votes. It is not clear who Sabahi’s supporters will vote for in the runoff. A vote for Morsy hands over dominance of both the legislative and executive branches of government to the Muslim Brotherhood but a vote for Shafiq could turn the clock backwards on Egypt and return it to a Mubarak-style authoritarian state. Ahmed Bassiouni, who attended a protest of the election results in Tahrir Square, told the Associated Press: “The choice can’t be between a religious state and an autocratic state. Then we have done nothing.” The National reported that a spokesman for the liberal Free Egyptians party said the runoff presents the “worst possible scenario” since people must pick either an “Islamic fascist” or a “military fascist.” Some Egyptians are planning on spoiling their ballots or boycotting the election altogether.
Soon after the election, Shafiq, along with three losing candidates (Hamdeen Sabbahi, Abouel Fotouh and Amr Moussa), filed complaints with the election commission. The commission head, Farouk Sultan dismissed the complaints due to lack of evidence but this did not satisfy the Egyptian public. Some reports claim that 600,000-900,000 police and soldiers cast ballots (mostly for Shafiq), even though they are barred from doing so by law. Observers from the Carter Center acknowledged that violations occurred but not on a wide enough scale to have altered the final outcome. Former President Jimmy Carter said the election was a “great step forward” for Egypt. Nevertheless, Egyptians expressed their outrage that Shafiq won so many votes. A mob set fire to his campaign headquarters on May 28; just hours after the results were announced. Others went to protest in public squares in Alexandria, Cairo and in more rural provinces in the Nile Delta.
In preparation for the next round, Morsy has attempted to broaden his appeal with promises for specific audiences. In recently vowing to be a “president for all Egyptians”, he acknowledged the importance of the Coptic Christian minority (that supported Shafiq). Morsy also promised to form a national unity government, in an attempt to appease the youth who lead the revolution last year. His most logical audience to target next will be the supporters of moderate Islamist Abouel Fotouh and the Nasserist/Socialist Hamdeen Sabbahi. According to Egypt Independent, the Revolutionary Socialists have thrown their support to Morsy under the condition that the Muslim Brotherhood selects a prime minister from outside the organization. However, longtime opposition leader Ayman Nour refused to back Morsy unless he leaves the Brotherhood and denounces it, along with its political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party. Nour also stipulated other conditions that would help to check the Brotherhood’s dominance.
Shafiq will have a harder time recruiting new supporters. Even those who fear Islamist domination of the government may be more fearful of Shafiq undermining Egypt’s nascent democracy. If Shafiq wins the runoff, his candidacy will likely be challenged using a law passed by parliament, which forbids former high-level officials from Mubarak’s government to run for president. The issue is currently held up in court but according to the Los Angeles Times, the election commission will decide on this issue in the end.
Some politicians and activists have called on Morsy to step down so that a candidate with broader appeal can run against Shafiq and ensure that the revolution lives on. On May 26, a liberal member of parliament, Amr Hamzawy, wrote on Twitter: “If the Muslim Brotherhood wants to have a consensus that saves the revolution, democracy and the civilian state and prevent the reproduction of the old regime and its domination, let Morsy withdraw.” He and others propose to unite behind the third-place candidate, Hamdeen Sabahi, against Shafiq as a compromise in order to save the revolution. However, it is not clear if Morsy’s withdrawal would automatically pull Sabahi back into the race, or if there would be another arrangement.
For previous news on Egypt, please see:
Egyptian Presidential Candidates Announced, Constitutional Assembly Suspended
SBS/Al Masry Al Youm - Analysis: Five surprises from Egypt's election
AP - Violence flares after Egypt election results
The Los Angeles Times - Commission confirms results of Egyptian presidential vote
The National - Egyptian candidates tailor campaigns for run-off
Egypt Independent - Revolutionary Socialists to support Morsy in runoff with conditions
Egypt Independent - UPDATE: Nour refuses to back Morsy unless he leaves the Muslim Brotherhood