Protesters set fire to the headquarters of former prime ministerAhmad Shafiq, angered after the electoral commission announced hewould face an Islamist rival in a runoff for president. Media reports said the cabinet would hold a meeting in the wake ofthe attack, after a senior military official said the army hadplans to deal with any violence ahead of the decisive election. Police, who put their forces on alert, said eight suspects werearrested near the office following the attack, which came hoursafter electoral officials said that the holdover from Mubarak'sregime would face the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohammed Mursi in thesecond round vote on June 16-17. The protesters ransacked Shafiq's office, according to an AFPcorrespondent who visited the building in the middle class Dokkineighbourhood of Cairo on Tuesday. The assailants had broken or toppled every piece of furnitureinside the two-storey villa late on Monday, and also set alight anannex of the headquarters. |
Several doors, windows and mirrors inside the office were broken,while the street outside the villa was littered with campaignleaflets which cleaners were busy collecting. "The premises will be refurbished and Mr. Shafiq will continue touse them to lead his campaign," said Ahmed Abdel Ghani, a Shafiqsupporter. After the attack, some of the protesters returned to Cairo's iconicTahrir Square, throwing Shafiq's campaign leaflets on to thestreet.
Many appeared to be supporters of an unsuccessful leftwingcandidate and opposed both Shafiq and Mursi. There were no immediate reports of injuries at the headquarters andfirefighters said the blaze was quickly put under control. "We were inside when they attacked us," one member of Shafiq'scampaign staff said, without identifying himself. "They set fire tothe garage that had general Shafiq's campaign literature." Earlier around 1,000 protesters had gathered in Tahrir Square toprotest Shafiq's presence on the runoff ballot. "Shafiq will be president when I'm dead," read one poster on a carparked in the square, the hub of last year's uprising.
Announcing the results, electoral commission chief Faruq Sultan hadsaid no candidate won a majority in the first-round vote on May23-24, so the two with the highest votes, Mursi and Shafiq, wouldenter a runoff. Mursi had won with 24.77 percent of the votes, slightly ahead ofShafiq with 23.66 percent. Leftist candidate Hamdeen Sabbahi came third with 20.71 percent,ahead of moderate Islamist Abdel Moneim Abul Fotouh with 17.47percent. Former foreign minister Amr Mussa was fifth, trailing with 11.12percent. The commission put the official turnout in the vote -- the firstsince the 2011 uprising that ousted Mubarak -- at 46 percent of the50 million people eligible to cast ballots in the historicelection.
Both Mursi and Shafiq, who represent polar opposites in thecountry's fragmented politics after last year's uprising, are nowtrying to court the support of the losing candidates and theirvoters. The Brotherhood, which alienated many other political parties afterits domination of parliamentary elections last winter, has warnedEgypt would be in danger if Shafiq wins and has pledged to becomemore inclusive. Two of the losing candidates, Mussa and Abul Fotouh, declined toendorse either of the frontrunners, however. A pending legal case could have serious implications for Shafiq'sbid for the presidency.
Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court is expected to rule on June 11in a key case examining the constitutionality of a law barringsenior Mubarak-era officials from running for office, according tothe state-owned Al-Akhbar. The contest presents a difficult choice for activists who led therevolt. For them, choosing Shafiq would be to admit the revolutionhad failed, but a vote for Mursi could threaten the very freedomsthey fought for. The presidential poll has followed a tumultuous military-ledtransition from autocratic rule marked by political upheaval andbloodshed, but which also witnessed free parliamentary elections,which saw Egypt's two main Islamist parties clinch nearly threequarters of the 498 seats in the legislature.
The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, in power since Mubarak'sdownfall, has pledged to restore Egypt to civilian rule by the endof June.
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