Ahmed Shafiq promises new era

Cairo: Ahead of his crucial presidential run-off against Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Morsi next month, Egypt`s former premier Ahmed Shafiq has promised a "new era" to his countrymen as he paid rich tributes to the "glorious revolution" that toppled Hosni Mubarak.

"Your revolution has been hijacked and I am committed to bringing (it) back," 70-year-old Shafiq said, referring to youth groups that engineered the 2011 uprising that ousted Mubarak.

Thanking Egyptians who "answered his call" and voted for him, Shafiq said the elections would not have happened without the glorious revolution and those who made sacrifices and died for it. There would be "no turning back", said Shafiq, the former prime minister of the toppled leader.

"I promise all Egyptians we will start a new era. There will be no return. We do not want to reproduce the old regime. The past is dead," he told journalists as he tried to shed his image as an anti-revolution candidate.

"We have had a glorious revolution. I pay tribute to this glorious revolution and pledge to be faithful to its call for justice and freedom."

Shafiq dedicated a part of his address to Egypt`s young people, specifically "the April 6 Youth Movement and the Ultras (hardcore football fans who`ve had a prominent presence in protests over the past year and a half), who want decent youth centers." He said, "The revolution has been stolen out of your hands. I promise to return to you its fruits."

During the 18-day uprising last January, Shafiq had appeared on television and mockingly offered the protesters candy if they would go home.

Shafiq also thanked the army for ensuring fair elections, which "reaffirmed their historic role". "Egyptian citizens: At the start of the manifesto I announced during the first round of elections, I promised security. Your millions of votes say that you want that and do not want our country to sink into chaos. My promise to restore security still applies, according to the law and with respect for human rights," he said last evening.

Shafiq also promised job opportunities, social justice, "acceptable" healthcare, comprehensive social insurance and development. He said that these goals would only be attained "if there is stability". Addressing his political opponents, Shafiq said he is "open to dialogue" with all political forces while at the same time being "determined" to build an "alliance with the people".

In an interview with Al-Hayat satellite channel, Shafiq said he would not mind the Brotherhood forming a Cabinet if he is elected President. Shafiq said his presidential race is motivated not by ambitions for power but by a desire to "take Egypt into a new era".

Shafiq and Morsi were the top vote-getters after a two-day election on Wednesday and Thursday, which none of the 13 candidates could win outright. The run-off is scheduled on June 16 and 17. Hamdeen Sabbahi, the third runner-up in the Presidential race, has sought a partial vote recount.

Essam al-Erian, deputy head of the Muslim Brotherhood`s Freedom and Justice Party, told reporters on Friday that Morsy won the first round of the election with 25.3 per cent of the vote, followed by Shafiq with 24 per cent and Sabbahi with 22 per cent.