Ahmed Shafiq, Mubarak's last prime minister, has cast himself as the presidential candidate who can restore stability to Egypt. But last night's protests underscore how polarizing he is.
Protesters angry at the first-round results of Egypt’s presidential election set fire last night to the campaign headquarters of one of the two candidates who will advance to a runoff, and took to the streets in protest in Cairo and Alexandria.
An angry crowd broke into the building that houses the Cairo campaign headquarters of Ahmed Shafiq, the last prime minister under former President Hosni Mubarak before he was ousted in last year's popular revolt.
The violence took place just hours after the government body overseeing elections announced Mr. Shafiq would face Mohamed Morsi, the candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood, in a mid-June runoff. The crowd threw campaign literature from inside into the street before apparently lighting fire to part of the building. Firefighters quickly put out the blaze.
Though Shafiq has portrayed himself as the candidate of stability, pledging to bring security back to Egypt after more than a year of unrest and violence, his first-round win threatens to do the opposite. Many Egyptians are angered that someone who represents the Mubarak’s regime could become president after a popular uprising pushed the autocrat out. Some fear worse unrest if he wins the second round.
Protesters who gathered last night in Tahrir Square, the focal point of last year’s uprising, said that the military rulers were rigging elections to ensure the victory of Shafiq, a former Air Force commander who is seen as the military’s preferred candidate.
“There was fraud – this never would have happened without fraud,” said a protester who gave his name as Mohamed. A crowd of around 1,000 chanted slogans against Shafiq, Morsi, and the military rulers. “I can't support Shafiq, and I can't support Morsi,” he added. Protesters said they were also angry that they had to choose between a member of the former regime or a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, which has sought to dominate the Egyptian political scene.