Last Updated: Wed May 30, 2012 17:11 pm (KSA) 14:11 pm (GMT)

Egyptian activists call for anti-Shafiq mass rallies, urge passing of isolation law

An Egyptian man walks in front of a wall sprayed with an image of the Mother of Martyr, with Arabic words that read as "2012 Elections" at Tahrir Square in Cairo. (Reuters)
An Egyptian man walks in front of a wall sprayed with an image of the Mother of Martyr, with Arabic words that read as "2012 Elections" at Tahrir Square in Cairo. (Reuters)

Egyptian activists called for a million-man march next Friday for deposing presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq, who will face Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Mursi in the election runoff on June 16 and 17, an Egyptian daily reported on Wednesday.

Activists at the iconic al-Tahrir Square in central Cairo urged passersby and car drivers, passing through the square, to take part in the planned mass rallies, Egypt’s daily al-Youm al-Sabea reported.

Earlier on Tuesday, scores of young activists marched from the Cairo neighborhood of Shubra to al-Tahrir Square to denounce both Shafiq and Mursy, Egypt’s al-Masry al-Youm reported.

They criticized both candidates as “enemies of the revolution” and announced their rejection of being ruled by either a former regime remnant or a Muslim Brotherhood member. They also called for the Political Isolation Law be applied on Shafiq.

Thousands of Egyptians marched on Monday night in Cairo, Alexandria and Suez in protest after the results of the first round were confirmed by the Presidential Elections Commission. “No to Shafiq and to the Brotherhood. The revolution is still in the square,” they chanted.

Protesters set fire to storage rooms and smashed computers late on Monday at the campaign headquarters of Shafiq.

The protests followed the announcement earlier Monday by the commission of the results of the first round in which the Brotherhood’s candidate Mursy was in the lead, with almost 25% of the votes. Shafiq, a former air force commander and Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister, received 24% of the votes.

Leftist opposition leader Hamdeen Sabbahi was a close third by 20.7%. Moderate Islamist Abdul Muniem Abul Fotouh with 17.47% and former foreign minister Amr Mussa was fifth with 11.12%.

The commission said that the election turnout was 46%, which means that about 23.67 million out of 51 million eligible voters cast their ballots.
“The election was rigged,” Assem Ali of the April 6 Youth Movement was quoted b al-Masry al-Youm as saying.

“We will not participate in the runoff, or else it would be recognition of the election and of Shafiq if he wins,” he added.

Both Mursi and Shafiq, who represent polar opposites in the country’s fragmented politics after last year’s uprising, are now trying to court the support of the losing candidates and their voters.

The Brotherhood, which alienated many other political parties after its domination of parliamentary elections last winter, has warned Egypt would be in danger if Shafiq wins and has pledged to become more inclusive.

Two of the losers, Mussa and Abul Fotouh, declined to endorse either of the front runners.

A spokesman for the Supreme Constitutional Court denied a newspaper report that it would rule on June 11 in a case examining the constitutionality of the Political Isolation Law that is expected to bar Mubarak-era officials, such as Shafiq, from running for office.

The runoff presents a difficult choice for activists who led the revolt. For them, choosing Shafiq would be to admit the revolution had failed, but a vote for Mursi could threaten the very freedoms they fought for.

Mohammed Mursi presents himself as the only candidate with an Islamic program. (File photo)

In his bid to broaden his appeal beyond the Brotherhood’s disciplined network of supporters who propelled him to the run-off, Mursi indicated he was offering vice-president posts and even the prime minister’s position to people outside his group.

“I am committed to the presidency being an institution. It will never be an individual,” Mursi told a news conference in Cairo.

Mursi, who said in his campaign he would implement Sharia (Islamic law) without spelling out what that meant in practice, sought to assuage some liberal fears by saying no one would force women to wear the hijab, the Islamic headscarves that many already wear.

Mursi also said he wanted to work with Christians, who make up a 10th of Egypt’s 82 million people and fear Islamist rule.

Ahmed Shafiq believes that one of his strongest assets is in fact this military background. (File photo)

Although he makes no apology for his past and takes pride in his strong ties with the military, Shafiq needs to prove he will not revive the autocratic state apparatus protesters sought to dismantle. The army and the hated police force are still intact.

Seeking to assure his opponents, Shafiq on Monday told a press conference that there will be “no re-production of the former regime.”

Mursi’s conference took place amidst mounting pressure from secular and liberal political forces, who refuse to vote for Shafiq but at the same time are calling for guarantees that the Brotherhood will not establish an autocratic rule should Mursi assume power.

Ayman Nour, head of the Ghad al-Thawra Party, was quoted by the online edition of al-Ahram daily as saying that Mursi would need to dissociate himself from the Muslim Brotherhood and to give up any leadership position within the group’s Freedom and Justice Party.

Nour underlined that a presidential team should be formed of ten political figures, to create a national salvation government, headed by an independent national figure. It should include liberals, leftists, women, Copts and youth, he was quoted by al-Ahram as saying.

However, the liberal al-Wafd party announced late Tuesday that it will neither endorse Mursi nor Shafiq.

Al-Ahram quoted sources inside al-Wafd party as saying that the party was inclined to support Shafiq as a candidate representing a secular state rather than an Islamic one as represented by the Muslim Brotherhood.

The election has followed a tumultuous military-led transition from autocratic rule that has been marked by political upheaval and bloodshed. But it also witnessed free parliamentary elections, which saw the two main Islamist parties clinch nearly three quarters of the 498 seats in the legislature.

Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter, whose Carter Center monitored the election, said he was broadly confident about the election process. Carter Center monitors highlighted several irregularities, notably lack of access in the final aggregation of national results.

Arab League monitors noted irregularities, but said they were not enough to affect the result.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), in power since Mubarak’s downfall, has pledged to restore Egypt to civilian rule by the end of June.

(Writing by Abeer Tayel)

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