Middle East

Ex-Mubarak PM, Islamist In Egyptian Runoff

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In Egypt, Ahmed Shafiq and the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, Mohammed Morsi, will face each other in a presidential runoff election next month. David Greene talks with NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson about what these results might mean for Egypt's future.


This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm David Greene.

In Egypt it is now official, Hosni Mubarak's last prime minister and the Muslim Brotherhood's candidate will face each other next month in a runoff election for the presidency. Election officials confirmed the match up, which the Egyptian media had predicted for days. This is an historic election for Egyptians, it represents the first time they've been able to cast ballots in an open, free election. But many Egyptians are concerned about what the results, so far, might mean. We're joined by NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson in Cairo for the latest. And Soraya, so we have two top candidates, now, who will face each other in a runoff, remind us who they are. The

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: Well, the first one who got the most votes - a quarter million more than the one he'll be running against - is Mohammed Morsi. He is a Muslim Brotherhood who headed the political party for the movement and was largely seen as instrumental in getting the parliamentary election, sort of, handed to the Muslim Brotherhood. They now control about half the seats in parliament. And then the second candidate is the last prime minister for Hosni Mubarak, and his name is Ahmed Shafiq. He's a retired general, and he came in, again, about a quarter million votes shy. Now, none of these gentlemen received the requisite 51 percent, or higher, of the votes that they needed to get in order to avoid a runoff. So they will be facing each other, as you mentioned, on the 16th and 17th of June. But there is one problem.

GREENE: And what is that, Soraya?

BYLINE: Well, Ahmed Shafiq has a court case - let's put it this way, there is a case that's winding its way through the constitutional court that addresses the issue of whether Mr. Shafiq can even run, because the parliament, the - again, this Islamist dominated parliament - had voted that people who served under Hosni Mubarak in the last 10 years would not be allowed to do so. And so, while the presidential election commission said that doesn't matter, he filed his paperwork before this law was passed, it has been referred to the constitutional court for a final ruling. That ruling is expected on July - I'm sorry, on June 11th - so that would be right before the runoff. So that could potentially cause some trouble, if, in fact, if the constitutional court disagrees with the presidential election commission.

GREENE: And so, Soraya, we have those legal questions, and also, several candidates have appealed the results, claiming - claiming fraud. I mean, what's going to happen with those complaints?

BYLINE: All the appeals were rejected. They did not specify who had filed or who didn't, they just said four were rejected on their merits, three were filed after their deadline - finished. And so one of those, of course, was for Hamdeen Sabahi, the, sort of, surprise candidate, if you will. He's a socialist who would actually come in third, and quite close to Shafiq. He's wanted to have some of the votes recounted to see if that made a difference, because he felt that there was fraud there. But again, that was rejected by the commission.

GREENE: And Soraya, if we have an Islamist candidate facing off against a former Mubarak official. I mean, it seems like after all the news from the revolution in Egypt, in many ways we have some old political battle lines being drawn. Is that the situation?

BYLINE: Absolutely. This has made many people here in Cairo, that we've talked to, very unhappy. They feel that the revolution has been cast aside for this old battleground again, you know, Islamists verses the military, verses the regime, if you will - and this is what the decision is. But what people need to remember is that the - there are many Egyptians who are very tired of the growing insecurity here, of economic issues. And they felt that Shafiq, even though he represents the old regime, would actually - but he talked about it in his campaign. He said it was something he was going to help fix. And I guess many people were concerned that the Islamists - or in particular, Mr. Morsi, was not going to deal with that.

GREENE: OK. It's NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson speaking to us from Cairo. Thanks so much, Soraya.

BYLINE: You're welcome, David.

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