CAIRO – A mob set fire late Monday to the campaign headquarters of one ofthe two Egyptian presidential politicians facing each other in arunoff that will decide a new leader after last year's popularuprising, the first sign of unrest after the voting yieldeddivisive candidates. The attack on Ahmed Shafiq's office came just hours after thecountry's election commission announced that he would face theMuslim Brotherhood's candidate, Mohammed Morsi, in a June 16-17runoff. The second round pitting Shafiq, who was ousted President HosniMubarak's last prime minister, against Morsi, backed by thecountry's most powerful Islamist movement, is a nightmare scenariofor the thousands of Egyptians who took to the streets last year todemand regime change, freedom and social equality. Many of the so-called revolutionaries say they want neither areturn to the old regime nor religious rule. "The choice can't be between a religious state and an autocraticstate. |
Then we have done nothing," said Ahmed Bassiouni, 35, whowas sitting in Cairo's downtown Tahrir Square in the midst of agrowing protest. In an upscale neighborhood of Cairo, mobs of young men used bricksto smash the windows of Shafiq's headquarters, tossing out campaignsigns and tearing up his posters. Then they set fire to thebuilding. There were no reports of injuries.
Police arrested eightpeople. His campaign blamed supporters of leftist candidate Hamdeen Sabahi,who came in third in the race, and backers of another losingcandidate, Khaled Ali, who was protesting the election resultsMonday evening in Tahrir Square, the center of last year'suprising. Shafiq, also a former air force commander, was forced out of officeas prime minister by protesters shortly after Mubarak's fall. Hehas since presented himself as a figure who can restore calm to acountry wracked by 15 months of sometimes violent protests anddeterioration in internal security.
He has expressed azero-tolerance attitude toward protests, reflecting his backgroundin the military and in the former regime, which put down protestswith brutal force and jailed opponents. Shortly after the protesters ransacked the campaign office, firetrucks and police arrived as several hundred of Shafiq's supportersgathered outside the building, carrying his picture and chantingslogans against the Muslim Brotherhood, which controls theparliament and is now seeking the presidency. "The Brotherhood are enemies of God!," chanted the crowd. The Morsi-Shafiq runoff is a polarizing contest.
It mirrors theconflict between Mubarak, himself a career air force officer likeShafiq, and the Islamists he jailed and tortured throughout hisyears in power. But it sidelines the mostly young, secularactivists who led the popular uprising last year. The commission reported Monday that Morsi won close to 5.8 millionvotes, or almost 25 percent, while Shafiq received 5.5 millionvotes, or nearly 24 percent. Sabahi, a socialist, finished thirdwith 4.8 million votes, or about 21 percent.
Fourth place went tomoderate Islamist Abdel-Moneim Abolfotoh. Turnout was about 50percent. In Tahrir Square, several thousands protesters chanted slogansagainst the military rulers who took over after Mubarak's ouster.Protesters have clashed frequently with the military in streetprotests that have killed more than 100 people, charging that themilitary is perpetuating the repressive practices of the Mubarakregime and bungling the transition to a new, elected government. Protesters also chanted slogans against both Morsi and Shafiq,saying they will not allow Egypt to be ruled by one party again norallow the former regime to regain power.
"Freedom! Freedom!" the crowds chanted, fists pumping in the air. Some were demanding that a law approved by parliament banningformer high-level regime officials from running in the election beimplemented. That could apply to Shafiq. Egypt's ConstitutionalCourt is set to look at the law just four days before the runoff. Others charge that last week's election, with 13 candidates, wasrigged, though observers said the vote was generally free.
In the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria, where Sabahi, afavorite among many revolutionaries, won the most votes, protesterstore down and burned large Shafiq and Morsi posters and protestedagainst military rule. In the Nile Delta provinces of Dakahliya and Mansoura, protesterstook to the streets in similar protests. Security officials saidprotesters in Mansoura tried to attack the campaign offices ofMorsi and Shafiq, but supporters of both candidates stopped thecrowd. The protests come just one day after Sabahi and Abolfotoh, whosesupporters backed the popular uprising, filed appeals to theelection commission to delay announcing the first round resultsuntil allegations of voter fraud could be investigated. Theirappeals were rejected Monday.
Speaking to reporters Monday, Abolfotoh said "violations threatenedthe integrity of the election." "It is impossible under any circumstances for me to say with anational conscience that these elections were clean," Abolfotohsaid. ___ Additional reporting by Sarah El Deeb.
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