Ex-PM, Islamist give Egyptians stark election choice
One is a former military man proud of his links to the Hosni Mubarak era and the other a Muslim Brotherhood leader offering a dramatic break with the past. Both are polarizing Egyptians in their bid to become president.
Ahmed Shafiq, Mubarak's last prime minister, and Mohamed Mursi, the Brotherhood's presidential hopeful, have joined the front runners in the race, their chances buoyed by campaigns that only gathered pace in recent weeks.
The two men starkly capture the historic moment facing Egypt and the Middle East when voters head to the polls on May 23-24 for an election whose outcome is proving hard to predict. They are broadly seen as the most divisive of five front runners in the race to replace Mubarak.
A Shafiq win would keep the presidency in the hands of a man with a military past, extending the pattern established in 1952 when army officers overthrew the monarch - an outcome reformists fear will crush their hopes for change.
A Mursi win would hand the leadership of the Arab country to the Muslim Brotherhood - consolidating its influence in a historic shift with regional consequences analysts say could set off new power struggles within the state.
It faces competition in the shape of veteran statesman Amr Moussa and independent Islamist Abdel Moneim Abol Fotouh, who have both sought to distance themselves from their past lives in government and the Muslim Brotherhood. Hamdeen Sabahy, a leftist, is also seen among the front runners in a field of 12.
But while Moussa and Abol Fotouh try to shake off their past affiliations, Shafiq and Mursi are banking on those very same links to rally voters at opposite ends of Egypt's fast-evolving political spectrum, who either see an old guard figure as a vote for stability or an Islamist as a vote for much-needed change.
"It will complicate and make it more conflictual if Mursi or Shafiq wins," said Joshua Stacher, a political scientist and Egypt expert based at Kent State University in the United States.
"The chances for more street activity will be incredibly high," he said. "There is a real possibility that if the Muslim Brotherhood were to win, that the military could shut down the state bureaucracy on them."
Shafiq, 70, has openly expressed his admiration for Mubarak, making no apologies for a remark he made in a 2010 interview in which he described the former president as his role model, after his father.
"See what I said? And I will keep telling you this until the last day in my life, and for a reason: he had great courage," Shafiq said, when asked about the remark in an interview with the al-Hayat channel, posted on YouTube in April.
The 61-year-old Mursi, meanwhile, is a long-serving Brotherhood man, who is depending more on the group's formidable organisational network than his own popularity to win.
The bespectacled engineer, described as "a graduate of the Brotherhood nursery" by the group's leader, was thrust into the race just a month ago by the disqualification of the party's first-choice nomination, Khairat al-Shater.
In an increasingly heated campaign, Mursi, Shafiq and others have been targeted by protesters during the last few weeks. One man threw a shoe at Shafiq during a rally in southern Egypt on Thursday.
Shafiq has come to embody all that Egyptians who took to the streets on Jan. 25, 2011 wanted to change in their country and an attempt by the old regime to reinvent itself.
The Brotherhood, though part of the reform movement, has faced growing anger over its policies during the last year.
Its critics accuse it of seeking to dominate - charges it fiercely denies but which have added to long-held suspicions surrounding a movement demonized by the state for decades and still shrouded in mystery to many.
Hassan Nafaa, a professor of political science at Cairo University, said victory by either would deepen the polarisation in Egypt. He has endorsed Abol Fotouh for the presidency.
A Shafiq presidency, Nafaa said, would be a "reproduction of the old system through some new names".
Were the Brotherhood to win, he saw the chance of another military takeover. "I am afraid that this kind of polarisation will reproduce a coup," he said.
AFPTurkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan rallies supporters after riot police again clash with thousands of anti-government demonstrators in a second week of nationwide unrest.Three people have died in the protests against Erdogan and his Islamic-leaning Justice and Development Party (AKP), in power since 2002.Following are the main events of the past days:- May 28: A peaceful local protest
AFPTurkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is facing one of the biggest challenges of his decade in power with anti-government protests that critics say have exposed growing discontent with his increasingly authoritarian and conservative agenda.Here are the key events since Erdogan's Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) assumed power in the predominantly Muslim but staunchly
AHRAM ONLINEFounders of Egypt’s 'Rebel' campaign, a newly established movement that aims to withdraw confidence from President Mohamed Morsi by collecting citizens' signatures, spoke at an open forum on Wednesday to discuss the campaign, which has recently gone viral online and on the streets.'Rebel' campaigners hope to collect 15 million signatures and hold a mass sit-in on 30 June –
BBC SportWhen it's put to him that he might be the most talented athlete in the world to hold a racquet, a bashful Ramy Ashour admits "that's pretty great".The 25-year-old Egyptian is more than just the current squash world number one - his elastic, unorthodox brilliance and charisma could be the key to squash breaking out beyond its four walls and regaining a place on the wider sporting