Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood pinned its hopes Friday on weekend elections to salvage its waning political fortunes, according to a report in The Associated Press.
The runoff vote set for Saturday and Sunday pits Ahmed Shafiq, former President Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister, against Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Morsi.
The Brotherhood rose to become the strongest political force in parliament after elections that started in November, only to lose that power when the legislature was dissolved by court order on Thursday.
The Brotherhood is now hoping to salvage its position by portraying itself as the last bulwark against the ousted president's loyalists bent on a comeback, AP reported.
“Isolate the representative of the former regime through the ballot box,” a Brotherhood statement said on Friday, referring to Shafiq. It was published just before the noon deadline to end campaigning.
Meanwhile, the report said, some activists took to Cairo's main squares to protest the court ruling. Morsi said on Thursday that he respects the court’s decision and added that the Brotherhood would focus on the vote instead.
“We are going to the ballot boxes to say ‘no’ to the losers, the killers, the criminals,” he said, referring to Mubarak-era officials.
Morsi also gave assurances that he would work closely with the country's military rulers, which are widely perceived as favoring ex-air force commander Shafiq.
“As president, they will be in my heart and will get my attention. ... They will never do anything to harm the nation,” AP quoted him as having said.
Thursday's court decision left Egypt without a legislature, and the Brotherhood said that that progress made since Mubarak was ousted was being “wiped out and overturned.” The movement said the country is facing a situation that is “even more dangerous than that in the final days of Mubarak's rule.”
Earlier this week, Shafiq and the Muslim Brotherhood sharpened their attacks on one another. Shafiq started the round by accusing the Brotherhood of paying thugs to attack his campaign headquarters in Cairo last month.
The Brotherhood in returned accused Shafiq of telling “huge lies” and said he did nothing to stop a notorious charge on protesters in what has come to be known as the “Battle of the Camel” during the January 2011 uprising.
The group said in a statement that Shafiq's lies aim to tarnish the Brotherhood's image and mislead voters so that they either do not vote for Morsi or boycott the runoff altogether.
In earlier comments, Shafiq hit hard at the Muslim Brotherhood, warning that an Islamist victory will lead to terrorizing Christians and accusing the Brotherhood of trying to make “Palestine" the central issue for Egyptians.
In an unusually sharp attack, Shafiq accused the Brotherhood of acting as if “Palestine is the capital of Egypt.” He said that Egyptians face several domestic issues that should not be overshadowed by the status of the Palestinian Authority, whose Hamas faction was founded by the Brotherhood.
“Don’t let the Muslim Brotherhood control Egypt and take it to the dark ages," Shafiq declared. "I represent a secular state... the Brotherhood represents a sectarian state. I represent progress and light, they represent backwardness and darkness.”
(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)