Egypt: Former Candidates Slam Islamists, Old Guard

A 'return to the old regime is unacceptable. So is exploiting religion in politics', Amr Mussa says of the new presidential frontrunners

Gabe Kahn,

Amr Mousa
Amr Mousa

Two of Egypt's losing candidates on Monday declined to endorse either of the presumed front runners in a presidential election runoff.

Amr Mussa and Abul Fotouh – who were among the four top contenders in the first round of presidential voting last week – spoke at separate news conferences as unofficial figures.

Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Mursi is set for a second round runoff against ousted president Hosni Mubarak's last prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq.

Shafiq, also a former head of Egypt's air force, is considered a representative of the status quo in a runoff that is now seen as pitting ascendent Islamist parties against Egypt's powerful military.

Both Mursi and Shafiq had reached out to the losing candidates in a bid to broaden their appeal, after an election that polarised the nation, but were rebuffed.

A "return to the old regime is unacceptable. So is exploiting religion in politics", Mussa told a press conference.

"Egyptians will only be comfortable with a civil state. A religious state is something very divisive," he warned.

Mussa had said before the presidential election – the first since Egypt's 2011 uprising – that he would retire from politics if his bid failed.

On Monday, however, he left the door open for talks with the other parties.

"I will not be consulting with anyone. If they want to consult with me, I will consider it," he said.

Abul Fotouh also refused to openly back a single candidate, but said a return to the old regime was unacceptable.

"We will announce our position when the results are announced," said Abul Fotouh.

"The most important thing is that people don't vote for a felool," Abul Fotouh said, using a common pejorative term for members of the old regime.

Mussa, who served as foreign minister under Mubarak before becoming head of the Arab League, had been expected to do well in the presidential vote, which saw 13 candidates competing for the votes of some 50 million eligible Egyptians.

Fotouh, who campaigned on a consensus platform, had been tipped as a frontrunner with Mussa, but unofficial results put them at fourth and fifth respectively, after Nasserist candidate Hamdeen Sabbahi.

Egypt's electoral commission is expected to publicly announce the official results of the first round vote later on Monday. The runoff vote between the two front runners is scheduled for June 16 and 17.

The interim junta that has ruled Egypt since Mubarak stepped down in February 2011 has said it will hand power over to civil authority following the election.

Cairo, which has burned through over half its cash reserves and lost almost $10b in the past fourteen months of economic downturn, is in dire need of promised foreign aid funds, especially from Washington.

US lawmakers made the release of billions in aid contingent on Egypt's new government honoring the 1979 Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty and the transfer of power to a civilian government that respects "human rights and freedom of religion."