Brotherhood candidate Mursi seals run-off spot

Cairo: Mohammad Mursi, Muslim Brotherhood`s `stepney` candidate, garnered the maximum votes to win a spot in the run-off for the Egyptian presidential race that turned into a sea-saw battle, with Hosni Mubarak`s last premier and a Leftist running neck and neck for the second spot.

Though the Muslim Brotherhood maintained their electoral momentum they had gained in the parliamentary elections, but the West Asian nation`s first free presidential election was proving to be a close call, with just few points separating the contenders` vote percentage.

Initially referred to as the `back-up` candidate or the `spare tyre` of Egypt`s largest party when its first choice, Khairat el-Shater, was disqualified last month, Mursi emerged to take a surprise lead in the first round of counting, according to partial results. According to the Brotherhood`s claim, Mursi has garnered as much as 30 per cent of the total votes polled, while former prime minister Ahmed Shafiq and Left-leaning Hamdeen Sabbahi were locked in a dead heat for the second spot.

Sabbahi, a Socialist, was proving to be a dark horse, jumping from number four spot in the initial hours to compete fiercely for the second run-off spot in the later hours. The top two vote-getters will be up against each other in the presidential run off on June 16-17. A see-saw battle was on between Shafiq and Sabbahi as voted were being counted.

While official results will be announced only next week, representatives of the candidates are allowed to watch the count enabling them to compile their own tally. Mursi was widely written off when the election campaign began but the 60-year-old engineer seems to have benefited from the Brotherhood`s organisational strength.

In the 2005 election, Mursi won a seat to the parliament on a Brotherhood ticket. But he was arrested and jailed for seven months after participating in protests in favour of reformist judges. While there were 13 candidates in fray, the race was always going to be between five candidates — former Arab League chief Amr Moussa, and Muslim Brotherhood-defect Abdel Moneim Abul-Fotouh.

The presidential race turned out to be a hotly contested one with no single candidate winning a clear majority and a close race for the second spot. Egypt`s electorate appeared deeply divided over ideological lines with Shafiq turning out to be the most polarising figure.

The proponents of last year`s revolution view the former intelligence chief as a remnant of Mubarak`s much-hated times, but Egyptians who have grown weary of frequent protests and disruptions look at him as a hope to return to the law and order of the former dictator`s era. On the other hand the Left leaning activist Sabbahi`s socialist message appears to have appealed to the country`s youth and he got support from several youth groups who were at the forefront of last year`s revolution.