Egyptian Presidential Candidates Press Claims Amid Renewed Unrest
June 9, 2012
Ahmed Shafiq made news on Friday, appearing at a press conference to stress that he was the candidate that young Egyptians should vote for in the June 16-17 presidential runoff, even as hundreds of people filled Cairo's Tahrir Square to demonstrate against him.
Shafiq, the last prime minister to serve under former President Hosni Mubarak, was one of the top two finishers in the first round of presidential voting. The other was Mohamed Morsi, the candidate put forward by the Muslim Brotherhood. Both men are former air force commanders, but the similarities end there.
Shafiq promised not to clamp down on freedom of expression, something that Mubarak did repeatedly in his 30 years of running the country. The Internet will remain open to all, Shafiq insisted. He also sought to stress his social media credentials by insisting that he follows the country's most outspoken activists on Facebook and Twitter.
The activists who have filled Tahrir Square see Shafiq as being a holdover, a link to the decades of oppression under Mubarak. Many Egyptians want to move on from those times, remembering the lessons and vowing not to repeat the mistakes. But Morsi isn't exactly a favorite of the people in the streets, either.
If Morsi wins, the Muslim Brotherhood will control the presidency and both houses of Parliament. (In parliamentary elections in January, the Brotherhood gained the largest number of seats in both houses, outpolling their fellow Islamists, the Salafis, and leaving more moderate elements in the dust. But the Brotherhood has said that they do not want a strict state based on Islamic law and will work actively to prevent such an outcome.
That outcome is precisely what has many moderates and outside observers worried. It is also what has convinced the ruling military generals to hold on to power for so long. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which has not endorsed a presidential candidate, has repeatedly vowed to hand over once the president has been sworn in. That is due to happen by the end of this month.
Morsi, meanwhile, has quietly gone about the business of campaigning, appearing at Brotherhood rallies and meeting potential voters in the streets, explaining the Brotherhood's plans for a better Egypt.
Potentially overshadow all of this is a ruling expected soon from the constitutional court, on a law that bans Mubarak-era officials from participating in politics. The law, which would disqualify Shafiq, was passed recently has not been enforced, pending questions of its constitutionality.