Election Sharpens Divide in Egypt (WSJ) WALL STREET JOURNAL) By MATT BRADLEY and CHARLES LEVINSON CAIRO, EGYPT 05/26/12)
WALL STREET JOURNAL
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Unofficial Tallies Show Presidential Vote Likely to Go to a Second
Round Between an Islamist and a Mubarak Stalwart
CAIRO—The presidential election here appeared Friday to be headed for
a runoff between a former military commander and an Islamist leader,
a duel that would pit polarizing candidates representing the
country´s two most powerful organizations.
Early ballot counts—though unofficial and impossible to verify—
suggested Ahmed Shafiq, a 70-year-old former air force general who
briefly served as prime minister under President Hosni Mubarak, would
land in second place to face off against Mohammed Morsi, 60, of the
Muslim Brotherhood, which for decades has been the most powerful
Egyptian organization outside the regime.
The unofficial results, however, suggested secular leftist Hamdeen
Sabahi could overtake Mr. Shafiq when official results are announced
On Friday evening, surveys by state-owned Al Ahram newspaper and the
Muslim Brotherhood both pointed to a Shafiq-Morsi runoff—while the
country´s election commission was cautioning against drawing
The final round is set for June 16-17, two weeks before Egypt´s
interim military rulers have promised to hand over power to civilians.
Signs of Mr. Shafiq´s gains on Friday cast a sense of impending doom
over much of Egypt´s political center, including liberal-leaning
secularists, activists and others who want neither military nor
Moderate Egyptians whose vote was split among several candidates in
the first round now could find themselves kingmakers caught between
two candidates they loathe.
Many Egyptians who backed the uprising that ousted Mr. Mubarak last
year feared they were seeing the final blow to their revolutionary
"We have a feeling that the revolution is getting defeated as every
day passes," said Shadi Al Ghazali Harb, a leader in the
Revolutionary Youth Coalition, a loose grouping of activists.
"Sometimes we were defeated by the Islamists, now we´re defeated by
the old regime."
Mr. Harb said that while some of the revolutionary youth have decided
to boycott the runoff, his group has decided it would back Mr. Morsi—
a candidate they regard as more revolutionary than Mr. Shafiq, who
served briefly as prime minister after being appointed by Mr. Mubarak
during his final days in office.
The Muslim Brotherhood, compiling results from ballot counts reported
by poll monitors, reported late Friday that Messrs. Morsi and Shafiq
won about 25% of the vote, with Mr. Sabahi following at 20%.
Al Ahram also gave Mr. Morsi around 25%, with Mr. Shafiq 1.5
percentage points behind and Mr. Sabahi trailing two points behind
Messrs. Shafiq and Morsi were both considered long-shot contenders
just a few weeks ago. But both enjoy the backing of powerful
political machines. In the case of Mr. Shafiq, it is the old
infrastructure of the former ruling party, while for Mr. Morsi, it is
the Muslim Brotherhood´s politically seasoned national organization,
which won a plurality in parliamentary elections earlier this year.
The robust campaign of Mr. Sabahi, the leader of the leftist Dignity
Party, was among the most surprising results of the week´s race. Mr.
Sabahi barely figured in the top five candidates in polls taken two
weeks ago. Reports of his strong showing appeared to reflect an
abiding public affinity for the kind of left-leaning, centralized
economic policies that Egypt largely abandoned through a series of
reforms over the past 20 years.
The lingering possibility that he could seize a place in the runoff
appeared to be a result of support from voters who wanted neither an
ex-regime member nor an Islamist.
The two candidates who enjoyed the most support during the early days
of the race—Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, a former Brotherhood reformist
leader, and Amr Moussa, a former foreign minister and head of the
Arab League—appeared in the to have finished in fourth and fifth
Both the Brotherhood and Al Ahram counted around 17% of the vote for
Mr. Aboul Fotouh and 11% for Mr. Moussa, in their early, unofficial
Their campaigns lost considerable steam in the final days before the
Despite their high profiles, both lacked the political machines that
appeared to play decisive roles in this week´s contest.
None of three apparent front-runners participated in a televised
debate two weeks ago that was the first of its kind in the Arab world.
Mr. Shafiq´s campaign benefited from the support of powerful families
in Egypt´s rural governorates that long backed Mr. Mubarak´s ruling
party and dominate local politics, according to Hisham Kassem, a
newspaper publisher and political analyst.
He styled himself as a can-do operator with a firm hand, capitalizing
on a wave of discontent with Egypt´s troubled economy and increased
He also refused to apologize for a 2010 interview in which he
described Mr. Mubarak as his role model. Some voters lobbed shoes and
rocks at him when he went to vote Wednesday, a sign of potential
An Islamist lawmaker has already filed a complaint against him with
Egypt´s high election commission accusing him of breaking election
rules by holding a news conference during voting on Wednesday. Mr.
Shafiq´s campaign said the conference didn´t violate election rules.
Meanwhile, Mr. Morsi´s campaign demonstrated the Brotherhood´s
consistent ability to mobilize its rank and file. Mr. Morsi was only
recently tapped to run by the Brotherhood after their first choice
candidate was disqualified for a fraud conviction under Mr. Mubarak´s
Despite Mr. Morsi´s apparent surprising victory, the early returns
indicated to a substantial drop off in support from Islamist parties
from the parliament elections five months ago, in which Islamist
candidates won 70% of the seats.
Mr. Morsi also appeared to have benefited from the split between more
liberal candidates. —Lara el Gibaly contributed to this article.
(Copyright © Dow Jones & Company, Inc.) 05/26/12)
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