Protests Erupt in Egypt as Mubarak’s Ex-PM Secures Spot in Presidential Runoff

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Common Dreams

Protests Erupt in Egypt as Mubarak’s Ex-PM Secures Spot in Presidential Runoff

'We don’t trust the military or the Brotherhood,' declare supporters of Egypt's revolution

by
Common Dreams staff

Presidential candidate and former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq speaks at a news conference in Cairo on Saturday. His bid for president has been challenged by revolutionaries and the Egyptian Supreme Court will rule on the legitimacy of his campaign only days ahead of the next round of voting. (Photograph: Ammar Awad/Reuters)

An angry group of Egyptians on Monday night stormed the campaign headquarters of Ahmed Shafiq, the former prime minister of ousted President Hosni Mubarak and one of two candidates now in a run-off for the presidency in post-revolution Egypt. The group threw campaign materials out of windows and lit a fire in a storage area.

Fuelled not only by his first round performance at the polls, those opposing Shafiq argue -- citing a clause in the new Egyptian constitution barring former Mubarak officials from holding elected office -- Shafiq should not have been allowed to run in the first place. In addition, accusations of voter fraud and illegal enticements continued to surface, and some of the international election observers -- namely the organization backed by former US President Jimmy Carter -- could not independently certify the fairness of the election.

For supporters of the Egyptian revolution that overthrew Mubarak last year in a popular uprising, there is a general sense of disappointment after last week's election, which now presents voters with two choices that ill-conform to the desires of those who staged massive rallies in Cairo's Tahrir Square in 2011.

"Most people protesting were simply angry that Ahmed Shafiq was allowed to run at all," wrote Egyptian blogger Yehia el Gammal on his Egypt In Transition website. "He was somehow able to circumvent the law that bans people who served under Mubarak’s regime from holding public office. We don’t want to go back to the way things were before the revolution, which is where Shafiq would lead us."

Many pro-revolutionary protesters gathered in Tahrir Square on Monday night to chant against Shafiq and the other run-off candidate for president, Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Gammal described the group as chanting: “We don’t trust the military or the Brotherhood.” And wrote: "We can’t imagine – we refuse to imagine – either of them ruling our country. It’s a real slap in the face after everything we’ve been through. But change is slow – and this is a reminder that the revolution is ongoing."

Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court is expected to rule on June 11 on the constitutionality of the law barring senior Mubarak-era officials from running for office, according to state-owned media and other reports.  The second, and final, presidential vote is scheduled for June 16.

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Democracy Now!: Egypt Correspondent Sharif Abdel Kouddous from Cairo

Sharif Abdel Kouddous reports from Egypt, where protests erupted last night after final results were announced in the country’s first-ever competitive presidential election. The top two candidates in the first round of the race are Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood and Ahmed Shafik, the last prime minister under Hosni Mubarak, who was ousted in a popular uprising 15 months ago. "[Shafik] speaks the language of Mubarak’s regime. And what that means is the retention of broad discretionary powers given to the executive and given to security forces, a very strong role for security agency involvement, whether the intelligence services or Ministry of Interior security agencies, to ensure stability and control over protests, which, as far as he is concerned, are the source of instability," says Heba Morayef of Human Rights Watch. Morsi and Shafik will face each other in a runoff vote set to begin June 16.

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Yehia el Gammal is a blogger who took part in the Egyptian revolution. He lives in Cairo. (h/t France 24):

As soon as I heard the official election results, I headed to Tahrir Square to protest. There were only a couple hundred people at first, but by evening it grew to thousands. It really reminded me of the early days of the revolution – there were lots of young people, and they all said that they were not there to support any candidate, but rather to denounce the results and ask for them to be re-examined. There are allegations – which still have to be confirmed – that thousands of soldiers voted, when the law forbids them to do so; this needs to be investigated. Unfortunately, as the electoral commission was handpicked by Egypt's military rulers, I have doubts as to whether this will happen. [The commission brushed aside allegations of fraud on Monday.]

"Most people protesting were simply angry that Ahmed Shafiq was allowed to run at all – that he was somehow able to circumvent the law that bans people who served under Mubarak’s regime from holding public office. We don’t want to go back to the way things were before the revolution, which is where Shafiq would lead us."

During the evening, we heard the news that Shafiq’s office had been attacked. Shortly afterwards, a group of thugs moved in to attack us in Tahrir Square, apparently in retribution. The crowd panicked and many people started running; it almost turned into a stampede. I heard that some people had been injured, but the thugs left and we stayed on, and continued chanting late into the night.

Most people protesting were simply angry that Ahmed Shafiq was allowed to run at all – that he was somehow able to circumvent the law that bans people who served under Mubarak’s regime from holding public office. We don’t want to go back to the way things were before the revolution, which is where Shafiq would lead us.

I think Shafiq attracted a part of the population because he promises stability and security. The past year has been difficult – there have been violent clashes every couple of months. So the desire for calm is understandable. But reverting to the old regime is not the way to reach lasting peace. The problem with this election was that there was no really strong secular, non-military candidate – the candidates who appealed to those of us took part in the revolution should have banded together, instead of splitting up the vote.

Protesters were chanting not only against Shafiq but also against his rival, Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood. We chanted, “We don’t trust the military or the Brotherhood.” We can’t imagine – we refuse to imagine – either of them ruling our country. It’s a real slap in the face after everything we’ve been through. But change is slow – and this is a reminder that the revolution is ongoing.

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