TEL AVIV – With tens of thousands of Egyptians pouring into the streets across the country to protest what they see as a lenient sentence of life imprisonment for former President Hosni Mubarak, the two remaining candidates in the presidential race are trying to secure votes by playing to fears among the electorate.
In a press conference on Sunday, Mubarak’s last prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq, said the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate Mohammed Morsi would take Egypt back to “dark ages.”
“I represent a civil state. The Brotherhood represents a sectarian Brotherhood state,” Shafiq said. “I represent moving forward. They represent going backwards.”
He also spoke to fears that the Islamist Brotherhood would make life more restrictive for Egyptian women.
“Women of Egypt, I will not permit that the powers of extremism take you back to the dark ages.”
Shafiq has tried to shake the label that he is part of the “felool,” a derogatory term for remnants of the Mubarak regime.
His late surge in the polls and victory in the first round of voting reflected a growing fear among Egyptians about the increasing lawlessness, as well as fears among the minority Coptic Christians about their place in a country whose presidency and parliament would be controlled by the Brotherhood. But the fear that he would simply be a continuation of Mubarak was highlighted last week when protesters set fire to his Cairo campaign headquarters.
“The only way to save the revolution is to support the Brotherhood’s revolutionary candidate Mohamed Mursi in the presidential election runoff,” the Brotherhood’s Secretary General Mohamed Hussein said today, according to As-Sharq Al-Awsat newspaper.
“We are talking about a danger that is coming at us with all its power, so we have to unite to topple the old regime’s candidate and then try and reach agreements afterwards,” he said.
On Saturday, Mubarak and his former interior minister were given life sentences for failing to stop the deaths of 850 protesters in last year’s revolution. Six other security officials were acquitted on the complicity charges while Mubarak’s sons and a business associate were acquitted of corruption charges.
The response to the verdicts was immediate, with Egyptians piling into Tahrir Square, the epicenter of last year’s revolution. Morsi appeared on Tahrir on Saturday night and has vowed to re-try Mubarak if elected. Also looking to ease fears among moderate voters, he met with former candidates Abdel Moneim Abul Fotouh and Hamdeen Sabbahi on Sunday who garnered many of the votes among moderates.
“There is a strong desire to complete the revolution and achieve its objectives,” said Sabbahi, according to Al Masry Al Youm newspaper. “You can see that in all of Egypt’s squares.”
Mubarak was flown to Egypt’s notorious Tora prison following the verdict. En route, he reportedly suffered a “health crisis” and according to several reports, he refused to get off the helicopter for several hours after it landed. He eventually relented and was given a blue prison jumpsuit, a prison number and had his mugshot taken. The prison authorities also declined to allow his declining health to be supervised by his personal doctors. Mubarak’s wife, Suzanne, was expected to visit him today.
The public prosecutor has already announced that he will appeal the verdicts. Morsi and Shafiq are set to face off against each other on June 16-17, with the new president being named officially on June 21.