Islamist candidate likely to face runoff in Egyptian presidential vote

The Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate appeared likely to face off against either a former prime minister who served under ousted president Hosni Mubarak or a leftist contender whose popularity surged at the end of the race, according to predictions Friday by political parties based on preliminary results in Egypt’s first free presidential election.

A contest between Mohammed Morsi, a conservative Islamist, and Ahmed Shafiq, Mubarak’s last prime minister, would present a stark choice for Egyptians. A win for Morsi would give the venerable Islamist group a near-monopoly on political power, raising fears among secular Egyptians of a state governed by a strict interpretation of Islamic law. If Shafiq were to prevail, many Egyptians would feel that their revolution last year paved the way for a politician with a past and governing philosophy in line with the autocrat they ousted.

“It would be extremely polarizing,” said Shadi Hamid, an Egypt expert at the Brookings Doha Center. “There would be a lot of boycotting. It’s the worst-case scenario.”

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