Egyptians torch Shafiq headquarters as vote triggers violence (REUTERS) By Tom Perry and Ahmed Tolba CAIRO, EGYPT 05/28/12 10:55pm EDT)
Reuters News Service
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(Reuters) - Demonstrators furious that Hosni Mubarak´s last prime
minister made it into the run-off for Egypt´s presidential election
set ablaze his campaign headquarters on Monday, witnesses said,
underscoring the divisive outcome of the country´s historic vote.
Former air force commander Ahmed Shafiq, who has described Mubarak as
a role model, will face the Muslim Brotherhood´s Mohamed Mursi in the
run-off. It is a contest between the two most polarizing and
controversial figures in the race.
A group of protesters broke into and vandalized Shafiq´s office in
the residential district of Dokki before setting it ablaze, the state
news agency reported. An official in the fire service confirmed the
blaze had been extinguished without causing any casualties.
Several thousand protesters took to the streets across Egypt to
demonstrate against the result of the election´s first round, which
was officially announced on Monday.
Trouble flared in Cairo´s Tahrir Square when activists said unknown
assailants attacked one such protest. Rocks flew in scenes
reminiscent of other spasms of violence during a messy transition
from military rule that is due to end when the military hands power
to the new president on July 1.
Local media reported the protest had been attacked by
unknown "thugs", though the account could not be independently
Many analysts had predicted that a Shafiq-Mursi run-off could trigger
trouble. The vote marks a ballot box struggle between a symbol of the
military-based autocracy of the last six decades and one of the
Islamist movements it had oppressed.
The result is deeply disappointing to the activist movement that took
to the streets on January 25, 2011, triggering the mass uprising that
toppled Mubarak. They had seen other candidates as more
representative of their hopes for change.
One of those candidates, Khaled Ali, joined the protest in
Tahrir, "(The elections) were neither free or fair," Ali told news
channel Al Jazeera Mubasher Misr, adding that Tahrir was the place
that had "toppled Mubarak, and would topple Shafiq".
Shafiq has built a sizeable constituency with a law-and-order
platform, convincing some he is the man to end 15 months of
turbulence. Mursi´s supporters believe Mursi and the Brotherhood are
the best hope for reforming a corrupt state.
But many Egyptians picked neither and are now left with a wrenching
choice between a symbol of the past and an Islamist group that
arouses deep suspicions for some.
Mursi topped the poll with 24.3 percent of the vote, followed by
Shafiq with 23.3 percent. Turnout was 46 percent, according to the
About half of the first-round votes went to candidates somewhere in
the middle ground - from leftist Hamdeen Sabahy, third-placed with
20.4 percent, to moderate Islamist Abdel Moneim Abol Fotouh, with
17.2 percent, and former Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa,
with 10.9 percent.
Mahmoud Momen, a 19-year-old student, held aloft a picture of Shafiq
with a black X daubed over his face as he took part in a Cairo march
against the result.
"Neither Brotherhood or feloul," he said, invoking the word used in
Egyptian political slang to refer to politicians who served in the
Mubarak administration. "We want someone who represents the square."
Another protester, a 19-year-old student who identified himself as
Omar, said the vote had been rigged, triggering an argument with a
bystander who disputed the claim.
Similar protests erupted in Alexandria on Egypt´s northern
Mediterranean coast, and in Port Said, Ismailia and Suez, cities
along the Suez Canal east of Cairo.
In Alexandria, some 2,000 protesters marched through the city,
tearing up Shafiq and Mursi election posters they encountered along
The protests were fuelled by accusations - denied by the committee
overseeing the vote - that there had been serious violations. Abol
Fotouh, Sabahy and Moussa filed complaints about the voting, all of
which were rejected by the committee.
Earlier, Abol Fotouh alleged the vote had been marred by vote buying
and other irregularities. "I reject these results and do not
recognize them," said Abol Fotouh, a former Brotherhood member. In a
statement, Sabahy also alleged irregularities.
Moussa said earlier that "question marks" hung over the vote. "There
were violations, but this should not change our minds on democracy
and the necessity of choosing our president."
The Muslim Brotherhood sought to muster a coalition to help Mursi
The close contest has set both contenders scrambling for support,
particularly the Muslim Brotherhood, which is trying to draw losing
candidates and other political forces into a broad front to prevent
a "counter-revolutionary" Shafiq victory.
The ultra-orthodox Salafi Islamist party Al-Nour has said it will now
back Mursi, after siding with Abol Fotouh in the first round. The
party has the second biggest bloc in parliament after the
Brotherhood´s Freedom and Justice Party.
Beyond the Islamist movement, it might prove harder for the group to
find allies. Secular-minded parties have grown suspicious of the
Brotherhood, accusing it of being power hungry and putting a quest
for power over principle - charges it denies.
A Brotherhood source, who asked not to be named, said the Islamist
group had prepared a menu of options to tempt rival groups and
politicians to its side.
These include creating a five-member advisory council to advise the
president; assigning the posts of prime minister or vice-president to
Abol Fotouh and Sabahy; distributing cabinet posts to other parties;
and offering compromises on planned laws and on an assembly tasked
with drafting a new constitution.
(Additional reporting by Marwa Awad, Tamim Elyan, Shaimaa Fayed, Dina
Zayed, Edmund Blair, Patrick Werr in Cairo and Abdel Rahman Youssef
in Alexandria; Writing by Alistair Lyon and Tom Perry; Editing by
Mark Heinrich and Eric Beech) (© Thomson Reuters 2012. 05/28/12)
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