Bloomberg News

Egypt’s Mursi Pledges to Protect Rights of Women, Christians

May 29, 2012

The Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate for Egypt’s presidency sought to ease concerns about an Islamist stranglehold on power by vowing to protect the rights of the country’s Christians and women.

Mohamed Mursi told reporters in Cairo today that he wouldn’t force women to wear the Islamic veil, and said he would choose deputies from outside the Brotherhood. “The presidency, when I’m president of Egypt, will never be an individual named the president who says and does everything alone,” he said.

Mursi will compete against Ahmed Shafik, who served as prime minister in the last days of Hosni Mubarak’s rule, in a runoff vote starting June 16 to decide Egypt’s first president since Mubarak’s overthrow last year after a mass uprising. Their emergence as the top two candidates has left Egyptians with a choice between a secularist with ties to the old regime and a movement that has pledged to impose Islamic law.

Polarization over the contest has helped push the benchmark stock index down 5.8 percent since the first-round vote ended, on the prospect of renewed unrest.

The outcome “could prolong the political uncertainty that has gripped the country since the revolution, which will increase the near-term risk of a currency crisis,” London-based Capital Economics said in an e-mailed report.

‘Revolution’s Sacrifices’

Many Egyptians have expressed dissatisfaction with the choice on offer in the election’s second round.

All the “revolution’s sacrifices” weren’t made so that “Egyptians would choose between the rule of the Brotherhood or the return of the old regime,” the Free Egyptians party, co- founded by Christian billionaire Naguib Sawiris, said in a statement, according to the state-run Middle East News Agency.

Mursi heads the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, which already controls almost half of the seats in parliament. He won 25 percent of the first-round vote, to Shafik’s 24 percent.

Mursi said today that Egypt should be governed by a broad coalition and the prime minister shouldn’t necessarily come from the Brotherhood’s party. He vowed to ensure “all rights” for Egypt’s Christians, who make up about 10 percent of the population, and said he would include them among his officials at the presidency, “even a deputy, if possible.”

Old Regime

While Mursi’s campaign has stoked worries among many secularists and Christians, Shafik’s ascension to the runoff has angered young activists who led last year’s uprising Mubarak. They have tagged the former air force officer as a “feloul,” or remnant, of the old regime.

Thousands gathered yesterday in Cairo’s Tahrir Square to protest his advance to the second round, while a mob torched his campaign headquarters. Some activist groups have called for further demonstrations in Tahrir on June 1 against Shafik, and urged that a law stripping some Mubarak-era officials of their political rights be applied to him, the state-run Al-Ahram newspaper said today.

The election commission, which announced official results yesterday, rejected appeals against the outcome and said any irregularities it found were not enough to change it.

Shafik’s legal adviser, Shawki el-Sayed, said the candidate was undaunted by the burning of his headquarters. Authorities arrested eight people in connection with the fire, the Interior Ministry said.

‘Repression and Despotism’

“It will emerge, 100 percent, that this was a political attack aimed at distancing him from the race,” el-Sayed said in a phone interview. “It increases his strength and determination, and reaffirms that he is walking down the righteous path against those trying to monopolize power.”

Mursi’s campaign dismissed allegations that his followers were involved.

Egyptians must “avoid malicious rumors” aimed at “dragging the country back into the darkness, repression and despotism of the corrupt former regime,” his office said in a statement today.

To contact the reporters on this story: Tarek El-Tablawy in Cairo at teltablawy@bloomberg.net;

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net


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