May 20, 2012 in Nation/World

Mubarak minister surging in polls

Hannah Allam McClatchy
Associated Press photo

Egyptian presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq flashes the victory sign to his supporters Friday.
(Full-size photo)

ASWAN, Egypt – Egyptian presidential hopeful Ahmed Shafiq, written off by many as a contender because of his service as Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister, is enjoying renewed buzz around his candidacy, helped by favorable coverage on state TV, the results of a survey in a respected Cairo newspaper, and what appears to be growing disenchantment with his Islamist rivals.

The prospect of Shafiq’s rise is unnerving to Egyptian revolutionaries, who see him as a holdover from the Mubarak era. But the possibility that Shafiq could make it into the runoff reassures those dissatisfied by the presumed leaders, reform-minded Islamist Abdel Moneim Aboul Futouh and former Arab League chief Amr Moussa.

Having survived an early disqualification – he was reinstated within 24 hours – as well as a high-profile corruption probe, Shafiq is now working overtime to capitalize on what pundits describe as a surprise comeback. Polls open Wednesday in Egypt’s landmark election, and Shafiq said his previously low-key campaign has switched strategies to “attack severely with no rest.” The survey by Cairo’s Al Masry Al Youm newspaper placed him No. 1 among the 13 candidates while early returns from overseas balloting released Friday put him in fourth.

Unlike his opponents, who take pains to distance themselves from the former regime, Shafiq unabashedly promises voters a return to the old order: a strong security state in which tourism flourished and the Islamists knew their place.

The ruling military council hasn’t endorsed any of the approved contenders, but it’s evident that Shafiq enjoys a cozy relationship with the generals he seeks to replace as ruler of Egypt.

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