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The Muslim Brotherhood’s presidential candidate, Mohammed Mursi, addressed Egyptian voters on Tuesday May 29, 2012 about concerns that his presidency would result in a strict Islamic state. Mursi claimed that not only would his Egyptian government be secular but he would emphasize the creation of an institution for the executive office instead of the presidency being one person.
Mursi spoke after his rival’s, Ahmed Shafiq’s, headquarters were attacked. Several store rooms were set fire to and computers were smashed.
Ahmed Shafiq, the rival to Mursi, was the prime minister under Mubarak, the former president removed through the most recent coup during the Arab Spring. Many of the youth voters are distrustful of Shafiq because of his relationship with the previous regime. However, many moderates support Shafiq because of his war and business records. He fought in three wars, including the Arab-Israeli conflict, as an air force pilot. He then went on to renovate EgyptAir which made the airline competitive and increased tourism.
Mursi claimed, “the Superman era is over,” emphasizing his desire to create an institution for the Presidency. Mursi also insisted that he would appoint individuals from opposing parties, not only from the Muslim Brotherhood.
The candidate addressed social issues in his speech as well. He made specific mention of the Coptic Christians and that they are the ‘brothers’ of Muslims and “will have full rights that are equal to those enjoyed by Muslims.” Additionally, Mursi claimed that Islamic dress codes would not be enforced; therefore, women would not be forced to wear the hijab. Mursi stated, “women have a right to freely choose the attire that suits them.”
Mursi’s statements came out amidst pressures from many Egyptian parties to have a candidate guarantee social reforms and political participation for all. There are also worries that the Muslim Brotherhood would create an autocratic rule or a government like that in Iran.
Originally the Muslim Brotherhood claimed that they would not put forth a presidential candidate and would focus solely on the parliament seats. The existence of Mursi as a presidential candidate at all thus reduces the Brotherhood’s credibility.
Mursi’s statement has indeed peaked the interest of several Egyptian political groups including the Social Democratic Party, the Ghad Party, and representatives from the National Association for Change. However these groups are still distrustful of both Shafiq and Mursi and have organized to demand more promises and action from Mursi before they agree to support him. Ayman Nour, head of the Ghad party, stated that the first condition was Mursi’s resignation from the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party. Mursi is currently the chairman of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party and he stated that if he were to be elected president he would immediately resign his position.
The parties also demand that a presidential team of ten political figures from varying backgrounds be added to the executive branch to ensure that the minorities and underrepresented are no longer discriminated against or denied a voice. Additionally the parties request that a special committee be created to recombine the political programs of different presidential candidates to form a kind of national project.
Although these parties are willing to at least bargain with Mursi other parties are still very distrustful. The Wafd Party still claims that it will neither endorse Mursi nor Shafiq and finds neither candidate suitable. In addition there is a boycotting campaign for those who prefer neither candidate.
The most recent polls show Mursi only one percentage point ahead of Shafiq. The race will be very close and both candidates will need to win over the youth vote especially or risk losing those who created and supported the revolution.