CAIRO – Egypt’s presidential candidates were busy Saturday polishing sound bites and stretching the facts a bit as they re-marketed themselves as guardians of the uprising that overthrew Hosni Mubarak and led to the nation’s first free election for a leader in history.
The campaigns of Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi and former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq sought to broaden their appeal ahead of their runoff election next month. Neither man is regarded as epitomizing the spirit of the revolution – Shafiq was prime minister during the deadly crackdowns on protesters days before Mubarak fell last year – but politics is often about image readjustment.
The battle over enlisting new voters came a day after independent ballot counts showed that Morsi finished first in last week’s first-round presidential race with 26 percent of the vote, followed by Shafiq with 23 percent. Leftist candidate Hamdeen Sabahi and liberal Islamist Abdel-Moneim Abolfotoh finished third and fourth, respectively.
Official results are expected in coming days, but the new race is on.
“I pledge to every Egyptian that there will be no turning back and no re-creation of the old regime,” Shafiq said during a news conference. “Egypt has changed, and there will be no turning back the clock. 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.”
Morsi’s campaign did its best to invoke the revolution too. The Brotherhood, which controls nearly 50 percent of parliament, was late to the revolt and has since been criticized by activists as being more politically opportunistic than patriotic.
Morsi and the Brotherhood urged unity against Shafiq and tried to draw support from other camps.