In the run-off vote for the Egyptian presidency on 16-17 June, Ahmed Shafiq, a former prime minister and a long-time ally of ousted former president Hosni Mubarak, is facing the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Mursi.
In the first round both got about a quarter of the vote.
Many Egyptians have already decided not to vote in the run-off, as they find the choice — between illiberal Islamists or backers of the former regime — repulsive.
The Brothers took an overtly Islamist stance during the campaign for the first round of elections, held last month. They were trying to head off competition from a powerful salafist current (deeply conservative Islamists).
Now, however, they have shifted and are presenting themselves as the voice of “the revolution” — playing on the fears of Shafiq’s links to the old order.
In fact the Brotherhood played a limited role in the mass movement that ended the dictatorship.
“We no longer present Mursi as the candidate of the Islamic current but as the candidate of the revolution,” said Murad Mohammed Ali, speaking for the Mursi campaign.
In parliamentary elections late last year, the Brotherhood won more than 10 million votes and nearly half of the legislature’s seats. In contrast Mursi got 5.7 million votes in the presidential first round — a setback.
The Muslim Brotherhood had damaged itself by insisting on Islamist domination of a panel charged with drafting a new constitution. The panel was disbanded after liberals walked out, and negotiations to form a new committee have been deadlocked.
A part of the political backdrop to the election is the recent verdict against former president Mubarak and his interior minister Habib El-Adly, who were both given life sentences for organising the killing of protesters during last year’s uprising. Six police chiefs were acquitted of all charges against them.
The fact that Mubarak has not been sentenced to death, and his henchmen have been released, has caused outrage and further protests in Tahrir Square. Mohammed Mursi has said that he opposes the outcome of Mubarak's trial and if elected he will reopen the case.
Unfortunately, as a consequence, some liberal Egyptians will hold their noses and vote for the Brothers.