The New York Times reports: The Islamist candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood appeared set to face former President Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister in a runoff to become Egypt’s first freely elected president, several independent vote counts concluded Friday morning.
A small portion of the ballots remained to be counted. But out of a broad field of more than a dozen candidates, the runoff appears almost certain to pit the two most polarizing figures against each other in a reversion to the decades-old power struggle between Egypt’s secular-minded military elite and its longstanding Islamist opposition.
It was clear as early as Thursday night that a plurality of votes went to Mohamed Morsi, the American-educated engineer nominated by the Brotherhood, the secretive 84-year-old revival group that became the wellspring of political Islam around the world and already dominates the Parliament.
But only Friday morning did it appear that second place would go to Ahmed Shafik, a former Air Force general who briefly served as Mr. Mubarak’s last prime minister. A late entry into the race, he was a dark horse campaigning on promises to use a firm hand against the protests and lawlessness that have prevailed since Mr. Mubarak’s ouster. He presented himself as a strong check on the rise of the Islamists. Of all the candidates in the race, Mr. Shafik came closest to promising a restoration of the old order and aroused both vocal support and threats of a “second revolution” if he should win.
Mr. Shafik’s law and order message resonated with voters, helping him to overtake the two candidates previously considered, along with Mr. Mursi, to be the front-runners. One was Amr Moussa, a former foreign minister under Mr. Mubarak and former head of the Arab League, who had offered a softer but similar message. In the final weeks of the race, Mr. Moussa’s support appears to have all but collapsed in favor of Mr. Shafik.
Ahmad Sarhan, a spokesman for Mr. Shafik, said voters had rallied to the candidate because he promised to “save Egypt from the dark forces,” referring to the Muslim Brotherhood and more militant Islamists.
Mr. Shafik would bring back security, Mr. Sarhan said. “The revolution has ended,” he said. “It is one and a half years.” The other former front-runner who fell behind Mr. Shafik was Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, a dissident former Brotherhood leader campaigning as both an Islamist and a liberal. He explicitly challenged the Brotherhood’s authority to speak as the voice of political Islam. His iconoclastic campaign promised to upend the old culture-war dichotomies of Egyptian and Arab politics, and it caught fire among an unlikely alliance of Brotherhood youth, ultraconservative Islamists known as salafis, and more secular minded leftists and liberals.