Demonstrators furious that Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister made it into the runoff for Egypt’s presidential election set ablaze his campaign headquarters on Monday, witnesses said, underscoring the divisive outcome of the country’s historic vote.
Former air-force commander Ahmed Shafik, who has described Mr. Mubarak as a role model, will face the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi in the runoff. It is a contest between the two most polarizing and controversial figures in the race.
A group of protesters broke into and vandalized Mr. Shafik’s office in the residential district of Dokki before setting it ablaze, the state news agency reported. An official in the fire service confirmed the blaze had been extinguished without causing any casualties.
Several thousand protesters took to the streets across Egypt to demonstrate against the result of the election’s first round, which was officially announced on Monday.
Trouble flared in Cairo’s Tahrir Square when activists said unknown assailants attacked one such protest. Rocks flew in scenes reminiscent of other spasms of violence during a messy transition from military rule that is due to end when the military hands power to the new president on July 1.
Local media reported the protest had been attacked by unknown “thugs,” though the account could not be independently confirmed.
Many analysts had predicted that a Shafik-Morsi runoff could trigger trouble. The vote marks a ballot-box struggle between a symbol of the military-based autocracy of the last six decades and one of the Islamist movements it had oppressed.
The result is deeply disappointing to the activist movement that took to the streets on Jan. 25, 2011, triggering the mass uprising that toppled Mr. Mubarak. They had seen other candidates as more representative of their hopes for change.
One of those candidates, Khaled Ali, joined the protest in Tahrir. “[The elections]were neither free or fair,” Mr. Ali said, adding that Tahrir was the place that had “toppled Mubarak, and would topple Shafik.”
Mr. Shafik has built a sizable constituency with a law-and-order platform, convincing some he is the man to end 15 months of turbulence. Mr. Morsi’s supporters believe he and the Brotherhood are the best hope for reforming a corrupt state.
But many Egyptians picked neither and are now left with a wrenching choice between a symbol of the past and an Islamist group that arouses deep suspicions for some.
Mr. Morsi topped the poll with 24.3 per cent of the vote, followed by Mr. Shafik with 23.3 per cent. Turnout was 46 per cent, according to the official results.
About half of the first-round votes went to candidates somewhere in the middle ground, from leftist Hamdeen Sabahy, third-placed with 20.4 per cent, to moderate Islamist Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, with 17.2 per cent, and former Arab League secretary-general Amr Moussa, with 10.9 per cent.
Mahmoud Momen, a 19-year-old student, held aloft a picture of Mr. Shafik with a black X daubed over his face as he took part in a Cairo march against the result.
“Neither Brotherhood nor feloul,” he said, invoking the word used in Egyptian political slang to refer to politicians who served in the Mubarak administration. “We want someone who represents the square.”
Another protester, a 19-year-old student who identified himself as Omar, said the vote had been rigged, triggering an argument with a bystander who disputed the claim.
Similar protests erupted in Alexandria, on Egypt’s northern Mediterranean coast, and in Port Said, Ismailia and Suez, cities along the Suez Canal east of Cairo.
In Alexandria, some 2,000 protesters marched through the city, tearing up Shafik and Morsi election posters they encountered along their way.
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