CAIRO — Mohammed Mursi, Muslim Brotherhood presidential candidate in Egypt, Tuesday sought to expand his support base ahead of a tight run-off against Ahmed Shafiq, an ex-regime figure, vowing to ensure the full rights of Christians and women if elected.
Mursi also tried to reassure the pro-democracy youth groups who drove the popular uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak’s regime 15 months ago, saying he will protect the right to stage peaceful protests and sit-ins.
Mursi claimed the top spot in the first round of Egypt’s landmark election last week, putting him in the June 16-17 run-off vote against Shafiq, a former air force commander and Mubarak’s last prime minister.
Meanwhile, an arson attack on Shafiq’s headquarters marred campaigning for the second round in a vote that has polarized the nation.
Protesters set fire to storage rooms and smashed computers late Monday at the campaign headquarters of Shafiq.
Thousands of Egyptians took to the streets Monday night in protest after the results of the first round were confirmed by the election committee. Some held up posters of Mursi with a cross over his face. But most were chanting against Shafiq.
Dozens then marched from the protests around Tahrir Square, where hundreds of thousands played out a drama that toppled Mubarak, to Shafiq’s headquarters in the upscale Cairo district of Dokki.
“They seemed to know what they were after and they went directly to the storage rooms and set them on fire using petrol bombs,” said Ahmed Abdel Ghani, 30, a member of Shafiq’s campaign, surveying a scene of unusable, charred campaign flyers and leaflets scattered on the ground.
Mursi and Shafiq are highly polarizing figures, and are scrambling to broaden their base by appealing to groups that did not support them in the first round.
Speaking to reporters in Cairo, Mursi said he planned to appoint Christians as presidential advisers and name one as vice president “if possible,” and said he would not impose an Islamic dress code in public for women.
“Our Christian brothers, they are partners in the nation. They will have full rights that are equal to those enjoyed by Muslims,” Mursi said.
“They will be represented as advisers in the presidential institution, and maybe a vice president if possible,” he said. — AFP/AP