CAIRO - Early results from the initial round of Egypt's first-ever contested presidential election point to a run-off that will pit the Muslim Brotherhood's candidate against a former prime minister appointed during the last day of President Hosni Mubarak's reign.
Votes tallied from Wednesday and Thursday's historic election indicated that American-educated Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood will likely face former Air Force commander Ahmed Shafiq in next month's second round.
Days before the official results are expected, the Muslim Brotherhood announced early today that its exit polling show that Morsi will face Shafiq in the next round. Shafiq thanked supporters on his Facebook page, saying "justice will reign."
The result leaves liberal Egyptians with the difficult choice between a hardline Islamist whose organization battled the Mubarak regime for decades and an insider from the regime many fought against for 18 bloody days last year.
"As difficult as it will be for them, I expect that many liberals/revolutionaries will hold their noses and vote [Muslim Brotherhood]," Brookings analyst Shadi Hamid wrote on Twitter.
Unreliable polling before the first round showed a variety of results, several of which had former foreign minister Amr Moussa and more moderate Islamist Abdel Moneim Abul Fotouh progressing to the second round. Shafiq saw a surprising late surge, as did Nasserist activist Hamdeen Sabbahi who may have taken votes from Moussa and Sabbahi.
Many voters in Cairo expressed a desire for stability through experienced politicians like Shafiq and Moussa. But given the popular surge that saw around 70 percent of the seats in parliament going to Islamists, Morsi and Fotouh were also expected to do well.
The two candidates now have three weeks to consolidate voters for the June 16-17 runoff. The new president will officially be announced on June 21.