CAIRO -- Egypt’s election commission brushed aside fraud allegations Monday and confirmed that a Muslim Brotherhood candidate and a former prime minister will compete in a run-off election next month for the nation’s first freely elected president.
The results mean that Mohamed Morsi, a conservative Muslim Brotherhood member, will face secularist Ahmed Shafik in a battle between political Islam and a loyalist to Hosni Mubarak’s deposed regime.
Official figures showed that Morsi led last week’s first round election with 5.76 million votes followed by Shafik with 5.5 million.
The Supreme Presidential Election Commission rejected claims of bribery and fraud by losing candidates, including Hamdeen Sabahi, a socialist who came in third. Sabahi trailed Shafik by about 600,000 votes and was regarded by the cultural elite as an ideal alternative to Morsi and Shafik.
“I cannot call this election clean under any circumstances,” said Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, a liberal Islamist who had been a front-runner but finished fourth, at a news conference on Monday. “The national conscience does not allow for labeling these elections as honest.”
The appeals by Aboul Fotouh and others “were not based on justifications of law and facts that could lead to nullifying the electoral process,” said Farouk Sultan, head of the commission. He added that rumors suggesting that at least 600,000 army and police officers voted – mostly for Shafik – were false. Egypt does not allow soldiers and policemen to cast ballots.
The election was regarded as one of the most transparent in the nation’s history. Judges oversaw polling stations and ballots for 13 candidates. The military-backed government allowed national and international monitors, including the Carter Center, founded by former President Jimmy Carter, access to much of the process.
Carter told reporters over the weekend that violations occurred but not enough to mar the integrity of the outcome. The poll, he said, was a “great step forward” from the elections held during the 30 years of Mubarak’s oppressive rule. Voter turnout was more than 46%, not as high as officials anticipated and much lower than in parliamentary elections.
Egyptians now face a polarizing race between two camps that have battled one another for decades in the Arab world’s most populous state. Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, once the most potent opposition to Mubarak and which now controls nearly half of parliament, is running against Shafik, a retired air force general who epitomizes the law-and-order tone of the toppled regime.
One legal challenge remains to Shafik’s candidacy. Parliament passed a law, which was endorsed by the military, forbidding former top Mubarak officials from running for president. The matter is before a court but the election commission indicated that it makes the final decision.
The run-off is scheduled for June 16-17. The country has yet to draft a new constitution but ruling military leaders have promised to turn power over to a civilian government by July.
--Jeffrey Fleishman. Amro Hassan contributed.
Photo: Campaign posters supporting presidential candidates Mohamed Morsi, left, and Ahmed Shafik, hang in Cairo on Monday. Credit: Fredrik Persson / Associated Press.