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Military man in run-off for Egypt presidency


he prospect of Ahmed Shafiq succeeding Hosni Mubarak as president of Egypt is a nightmare for revolutionaries and Islamists, but a security blanket for those wary of change. Shafiq, 70, who served briefly as Mubarak's last premier, is a divisive military figure who will contest next month's run-off vote for the presidency against the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Mursi, according to official results announced on Monday.


The bluff, straight-talking Shafiq came from behind in a race in which Moussa and Abol Fotouh had been early favourites.


His late surge reflected the anxiety of many Egyptians about a breakdown of law and order and the often violent political disputes that have punctuated an army-led transition since a popular revolt ousted Mubarak on Feb. 11, 2011.


It also rested on the fear, not least among Egypt's 10 percent Christian minority, of rising Islamist power.


Less easy to determine is the extent to which Shafiq relied on the networks of Mubarak's now-banned National Democratic Party or on the influence of the military from which he sprang.


The electoral committee said Shafiq, a former air force commander, came second in last week's opening round of Egypt's first free presidential election. Turnout was 46 percent.


It said Mursi won 24.3 percent of the vote, Shafiq 23.3 percent, leftist Hamdeen Sabahy 20.4 percent, moderate Islamist Abdel Moneim Abol Fotouh 17.2 percent and ex-Arab League chief Amr Moussa 10.9 percent. The run-off will be on June 16 and 17.


Parliament, dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists repressed under Mubarak, had sought to bar Shafiq from the race with a law disqualifying senior officials of the old administration. But the election committee, headed by a former military officer, conditionally upheld Shafiq's appeal.


Many Shafiq supporters come not from the political hotbed of Cairo and other cities, but from the countryside, where voter concerns about security and order tend to be strongest.


His staunchest opponents are already threatening to take to the streets in protest if he becomes president, although that could serve to strengthen his appeal among those who fear chaos.


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