Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, whose presidential candidate Mohamed Morsy polled the highest number of votes in the fractured electoral contest, has been quickly off the blocks in seeking support from all other “pro-revolution” parties and individuals so that Ahmed Shafiq, seen by many as a former loyalist of the ousted President Hosni Mubarak, can be defeated in the two-horse run-off slated next month.
While the final results will be declared only on Tuesday, the big picture is already clear. It is estimated that Mr. Morsy has cornered 24.9 per cent of the vote, followed by Mr. Shafiq with 24.5. The neo-Nasserite “dark horse” Hamdeen Sabbahi stood in the third place with 21.1 per cent of the vote, relegating soft-Islamist Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh to fourth position. Veteran diplomat Amr Moussa ended up fifth in the keenly followed elections — the first free presidential poll in Egypt since 1952.
The Muslim Brotherhood on Friday issued a distress call by announcing that Mr. Shafiq's accession to the presidency, as a result of the upcoming run-off, poses the danger to Egypt of becoming a secular police state.
A top Brotherhood official Essam El-Erian declared that in the uncertain period ahead, the party will campaign on the simple slogan that Egypt in the aftermath of the first round had become, “A nation in danger.”
He said the Muslim Brotherhood had invited the defeated candidates to discuss the appointment of a Vice-President and the possible formation of a coalition government. “We were the first to call for the Democratic Alliance [electoral coalition] during parliamentary elections, which brought together 40 different parties,” said Mr. El-Erian.
As the first round results of the election began to acquire a definite pattern, the ultra-conservative Salafi coalition declared that it would support Mr. Morsy in the second round. Mr. Fotouh also issued a statement on Friday night that his groups would work to establish a unified revolutionary front to ensure Mr. Shafiq's defeat. The possible emergence of an Islamist front improves Mr. Morsy's chances, on account of the proven capacity of the Islamist parties, especially Muslim Brotherhood to mobilise disciplined cadres for the vote.
Mr. Shafiq's camp is issuing dark warnings that with the Muslim Brotherhood already dominating Parliament, Mr. Morsy's elevation to the presidency, if he wins the June 16-17 run-off, would turn Egypt into a conservative theocracy. An alarmist cell-phone ring tone that is being circulated by Mr. Shafiq's supporters is warning voters of the perceived dangers of an overwhelming green tide. “I beg you to please put your differences aside and go vote for Shafiq not because you believe in him but because it will be a catastrophe if we consolidate all power to one party (presidency and Parliament)!” the message read. “History has proved, so please spread!”
The political anxiety that has gripped Egypt after the highly polarising first round results, has only deepened in the absence of a new post-Mubarak constitution that would have defined the powers of the presidency. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) — Egypt's interim ruling body — has declared the possibility of releasing an interim constitution, raising questions about the dangers of the military's undue political influence in Egypt's fledgling democracy.
The possibility of the Muslim Brotherhood's political ascendancy has also raised concerns about the longevity of the 1979 peace treaty between Egypt and Israel — an issue that could shape the response of the United States towards the country's emerging leadership. After Mr. Mubarak's pro-western inclinations, Egypt could also recast its role in the resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict, given the declared sympathy of the Brothers for the Palestinian cause.