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Muslim Brotherhood candidate eyeing history in Egypt

June 17, 2012 |  2:13 pm

Elect egypt
CAIRO — Mohamed Morsi’s car stopped in front of his campaign headquarters. It was hours past dark but the building was alive with chatter. Its fluorescent lights illuminated an entire block on Mounsour Street, which 16 months ago was a bloody battleground in the rebellion that toppled longtime leader Hosni Mubarak.

Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, is vying against Ahmed Shafik, former prime minister under Mubarak, in the presidential runoff election that ended Sunday night. Official results are expected later this week. The winner is due to take office by the end of June, but that may be delayed as the ruling military tightens its hold on power.

The call to prayer emanated from inside Morsi’s headquarters. Campaign workers returned to their offices to pray.  Moments after the muezzin’s voice faded, Morsi hurried through the doors, saying “Peace be upon you.” Swept upstairs by bodyguards, he was led into a meeting with his advisors. They tell him, based on projections, that he can win.

“It seems as though their candidate [Shafik] is not doing so well,” Khaled Al Qazzaz, coordinator of the Freedom and Justice Party, says. “Shafik will not win.”

Morsi’s neatly bearded face looked out from a campaign poster billowing from the pillars of the headquarters, which sits across the street from the Interior Ministry, whose agents arrested and beat Muslim Brotherhood members for decades. The men and women working on the campaign said the poster is a reminder of their goal: a president from the ranks of the Brotherhood.

Dina Zakaria,  a campaign media representative and member of the foreign relations committee, sat with four other women tracking the day’s events on laptops and IPads.

“It is very difficult,” she said. “It can get really tiring. But I always have to do my best.”

The campaign is concerned that alleged corruption at polling stations would prevent a Morsi victory.

“What will protect us from this mess is very simple — millions going down voting today and tomorrow,” Al Qazzaz said. “It is very clear, more votes means less chances of forging and rigging and more chances for democracy. This is the fight.”

The Election Network in the Arab Region (ENAR), a group monitoring the elections, said Sunday night in a closed meeting with Morsi’s campaign that they thought the elections were an improvement from parliamentary election in 2010.

“Overall, the elections were free and fair, accompanied by some breaches and violations,” Nizam Assaf, president of ENAR, said. “We have to look to where we were and where we are now. There is a serious change in how they are conducted.”

Morsi came out of his meeting and departed the way he came in. Before getting back into his the car, he stopped and walked toward a young girl and shook her hand.

“That is the next president,” her father said.


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Photo: An Egyptian man arrives with his daughter to register to vote while a man casts his ballot during the second day of a runoff presidential election in Cairo on Sunday. Credit: Andre Pain /  EPA