The Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate is set to win the first round of Egypt’s presidential election and enter a run-off next month where his likeliest opponent will be a former aide to Hosni Mubarak, according to early results.
The Brotherhood’s Mohamed Mursi has 28 percent of the vote based on counts from 86 percent of polling stations, followed by Ahmed Shafik, who served as premier under Mubarak before last year’s revolt, with 25 percent, the independent Rasd News Network said on its website. The top two candidates will qualify for a second-round vote starting on June 16.
The state-run Ahram Gate news website showed the same candidates running first and second. The Brotherhood said on its website that Mursi leads with 90 percent of ballots counted and is “certain” to contest the run-off with Shafik. Official figures haven’t been announced by the election commission, and the partial results are based on final tallies handed to representatives of the candidates at polling stations.
The vote’s outcome may determine how quickly Egypt emerges from the turmoil of the past 15 months, when the transition toward democracy was overshadowed by violence and the economy slumped. The generals who took over after the popular uprising against Mubarak say they will cede power by the end of June.
“It appears to be a victory for organized campaigns, namely the Muslim Brotherhood’s backing of Mursi and Shafik’s backing by the military and Mubarak’s dissolved National Democratic Party,” Samer Sulaiman, professor of political economy at the American University in Cairo, said by phone. “The pro-revolution candidates failed to unite and it showed.”
The presidential election was billed as the freest and fairest that Egypt has had, offering 50 million eligible voters a choice among 13 candidates. All the country’s leaders over the past 60 years were drawn from the ranks of the military and re- elected through rigged ballots.
Islamist candidates such as Mursi and Abdel-Moneim Aboul- Fotouh were opposed by secularists who included Shafik and Amre Moussa, both ministers under Mubarak, and Hamdeen Sabahi, who espouses the nationalism of former President Gamal Abdel Nasser. Sabahi and Aboul-Fotouh, who emphasized their support for last year’s revolution, were competing for third place, both around 18 percent, according to the Rasd figures. Moussa, who headed most opinion polls, trailed in fifth.
The Brotherhood has run on a social justice platform that advocates a stronger role for Islam in the Arab world’s most populous country. Its Freedom and Justice Party, headed by Mursi, already controls almost half of the parliament’s lower house, and a win in the presidential election would consolidate its power.
That prospect has worried secularists and the country’s Christian minority, who see the once-banned Brotherhood as trying to monopolize power. Supporters of last year’s revolution, on the other hand, have attacked Shafik and Moussa as “feloul,” or leftovers of the ousted regime, and accused them of trying to recreate the system against which Egyptians rebelled.
“Having someone like Shafik is provocative, and means that he’s mocking the revolution,” said Ahmed Maher, a founder of the April 6 youth movement that helped organize last year’s anti-Mubarak protests. “Even if the president is affiliated with the revolution, pressure will continue so that he doesn’t turn into a new pharaoh.”
Law and Order
Shafik ran on pledges of restoring law and order, playing to Egyptian concerns about a deterioration in security, and accused the Islamist candidates of seeking to drag the country back into the past. On his campaign’s Facebook page, he promised to “implement an environment of freedom” if elected.
The winner will face the task of ending the instability that has stalled efforts to revive the economy.
The central bank has spent almost 60 percent of Egypt’s international reserves since the uprising began in January last year, helping to cap the pound’s losses in the period at 4 percent. Forward contracts show investors expect the currency to lose about 20 percent over the next year.
Borrowing costs have risen to record highs and the government has applied to the International Monetary Fund for a $3.2 billion loan. Talks with the fund are on hold until after the elections.
Egypt’s benchmark share index gained 2.2 percent over the two days of voting, which was broadly peaceful. The country’s 5.75 percent dollar bonds due in 2020 advanced for a second day today, pushing the yield down six basis points, or 0.06 percentage point, to 6.77 percent at 2:40 p.m. in Cairo, according to prices compiled by Bloomberg. That’s the lowest level on a closing basis in seven weeks.
Restoring stability will mean reaching an accommodation with the ruling military, which has warned that Egyptians should not expect the incoming president to hold a “magic wand.”
In the run-up to the vote, candidates also focused on foreign policy, often appealing to Egyptians unhappy with the country’s peace treaty with neighboring Israel.
“Whoever is elected Egyptian president is under immense popular pressure to take a tougher stance toward Israel,” Egyptian Nobel laureate Mohamed ElBaradei, who decided against running for the presidency, said in an interview with Vienna, Austria-based Profil magazine to be published today. “At the moment there is just chaos” and it is “unclear who rules the country,” ElBaradei said.
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