Shafiq made a point of reaching out to the Christian minority, which is about 10% of the population. He floated the idea that he might make a female Christian his deputy. Coptic Christian groups in the U.S. endorsed his candidacy.
Now, Shafiq is on the defensive because of the Brotherhood’s political strategy. He is working to change the image that he is an opponent of the revolution. He says the Islamists have “hijacked” the revolution and that he does not want to move backwards. The most liberal elements of Egyptian society refuse to embrace him. The Free Egyptians Party, for example, described the upcoming race is the “worst case scenario” pitting an “Islamic fascist” against a “military fascist.” The secular democratic party says it may boycott the election and will endorse neither candidate.
Hamdeen Sabahi came in a surprising third place with about 21.5%. He is a secular Nasserist, but that is not necessarily good for the U.S. In 2005, hesaid, “One must salute this organization [Al-Qaeda] when it kills any American soldier—a soldier, not a civilian. The presence of Al-Qaeda in Iraq as part of the resistance is a positive phenomenon that should be supported. I support Al-Qaeda when it kills Americans.”
His surge happened because many secular voters wanted someone who had no ties to the Mubarak regime. He was able to position himself as the only secularist candidate that is a friend of the revolution. He was consistently in fifth place in the polls, though one had him rising above Morsi for fourth place. He ended up coming in a close third.
The results were incredibly embarrassing for Aboul-Fotouh and Amr Moussa who were, for almost the entire duration of the campaign, considered the frontrunners. They even had a one-on-one debate because it had appeared to have become a two-man race. Fotouh ended up in fourth with 18% and Moussa came in fifth with 11%.
Sabahi and Aboul-Fotouh have filed complaints, claiming to have proof of voter fraud designed to help Shafiq. Aboul-Fotouh says campaign observers were not allowed to view the ballot counting at some stations and some votes were casted by dead people. Other voters were bribed. Sabahi wants a partial recount. He says that hundreds of thousands of military and security personnel voted for Shafiq, even though they were not allowed to vote. The Brotherhood reportedly chose not to complain about the fraud because it doesn’t want to risk having another vote. Moussa is not filing any complaints.
If the election results become official and these challenges are dismissed, all attention will be focused on the upcoming battle between Morsi and Shafiq. The race will be decided by how the race is seen by the public.
If the Brotherhood succeeds in creating a grand “pro-revolution” alliance against Shafiq that includes pro-revolution secularists, it probably wins in a landslide. If Shafiq succeeds in making it about secularism against Islamism, then he can win the presidency comfortably. If you total up the percentages of the major secular candidates (Shafiq, Sabahi and Moussa), you get about 56.31%. If you total the percentages of the major Islamist candidates (Morsi and Aboul-Fotouh), you get only 43.23%.
The Islamists may or may not win the presidency, but they already have a huge majority in the parliament and that is, in and of itself, a huge victory. The big question is how much power the ruling Supreme Armed Council of the Armed Forces is actually willing to give up.
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