Egypt Confirms Mursi, Shafik to Contest Presidential Runoff
The Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate and Hosni Mubarak’s last premier will compete for the Egyptian presidency next month, after official results for the first round dashed hopes for a last-minute upset by a man favored by some of the youths who spearheaded last year’s uprising.
The Brotherhood’s Mohamed Mursi won 5.76 million out of 23.3 million valid votes in last week’s first round, followed by Ahmed Shafik with 5.5 million, elections commission head Farouk Soultan told reporters in Cairo today. Hamdeen Sabahi, a socialist who espouses the nationalism of former President Gamal Abdel Nasser and who is supported by some of the activists who took part in the anti-Mubarak demonstrations, came third with 4.82 million votes. Turnout was 46.4 percent, Soultan said.
The results pit two of the most divisive candidates in the race against each other, fueling political tensions that have built up since Mubarak’s ouster last year and leaving Egyptians with a choice between a secular candidate with ties to the old regime and an Islamist. The vote was billed as the freest and fairest in the country’s history.
“You are limited to only two choices: either back to the old regime represented by Ahmed Shafik, which is as if the revolution hasn’t even happened, or you have to vote for the Brotherhood, who already won the parliamentary election and now would have all powers in their hands,” Mona Mansour, co-head of research at CI Capital, said by phone. “It’s negative on the market sentiment, investment sentiment.”
Fitch Ratings said that while the runoff between the two men “could exacerbate social unrest and prolong political stalemate,” both support policies “that could stabilize the sovereign credit profile.”
Fitch said in a statement that continuing tensions after the new president takes office could further delay the restart of talks with the International Monetary Fund which Egypt had tapped for a $3.2 billion loan that has yet to be approved.
While the government will probably try to meet the June 30 deadline to finalize a budget, the country’s BB- rating “will remain under pressure until a government is able to implement a comprehensive economic program that attracts external support and foreign investment,” Fitch said.
Islamists and many of the youths who led the anti-Mubarak uprising decry Shafik’s links to the old regime and accuse him of being the ruling military council’s favorite in the race. The council, which says it will hand over power by the end of June, has said it regards all candidates equally.
At the same time, secular and other groups have accused the Brotherhood of seeking to monopolize power and impose more conservative Islamic laws. The group’s Freedom and Justice Party makes up the largest bloc in parliament.
“The election represents a definite defeat for the revolutionary camp,” Mustapha K. al-Sayyid, a professor of political science at Cairo University, wrote today in Al Shorouk newspaper.
Since initial results put them in the lead, both Shafik and Mursi have courted activists behind last year’s uprising as they sought new alliances ahead of their showdown on June 16 and 17. Final results are due on June 21.
Some activists have advocated boycotting the runoffs since the preliminary results were revealed.
“We, the people of the revolution who are trapped today between voting for Mursi and voting for Shafik, are in a dilemma but we are not anyone’s hostages,” journalist and commentator Hamdi Kandil, who had announced his support for Sabahi, wrote in today’s Al Masry Al Youm newspaper.
“Public anger will explode tomorrow or the day after no matter who the winner is,” he wrote. “We will boycott the runoffs by the millions. We will not hand over our country to the powers of the past because we represent the future.”
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