CAIRO, May 25, 2012 (AFP)
CAIRO, May 25, 2012 (AFP)
Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Mursi, who looks set to face former premier Ahmed Shafiq in a presidential run-off, is a back-up candidate who benefited from his organisation’s formidable reach.
A retiring individual, bearded and bespectacled, Mursi became the Brotherhood’s candidate for president only after their first choice, deputy leader Khairat el-Shater, was disqualified.
Many wrote Mursi off as an uncharismatic substitute, saying he would be unable to muster widespread support.
But the powerful Islamist movement mobilised its formidable resources and supporters behind Mursi, who was appointed last year as the head of its political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party.
Brotherhood supporters lined up for kilometres along main Cairo roads and north of the capital last week holding up pictures of the portly 60-year-old former professor.
During his campaign, Mursi offered a fiery stump speech, pledging a presidency that would be based on Islam but would not be a theocracy.
Initially awkward, he appeared to gain confidence as his campaign proceeded, growing comfortable in his new role as a potential president, as he gave interviews and made speeches.
In one of his first press conferences, he appeared ill at ease and defensive, his eyes nervously darting across the room full of journalists.
By his final campaign event, he confidently declared that anyone attempting to “revert (back to the old regime) or forge the people’s will” would be “trampled and burnt by popular anger.”
Mursi was born in the Nile Delta province of Sharqiya and graduated with an engineering degree from Cairo University in 1975. He received a PhD from the University of Southern California, where he was an assistant professor, in 1982.
He was a member of an anti-Israel group, the Committee to Resist Zionism, but dedicated much of his time to the Muslim Brotherhood, which first fielded him in a parliamentary election in 2000.
In 2005 election, which gave the Brotherhood one-fifth of the seats in parliament, he kept his seat. But he was soon arrested and jailed for seven months after participating in protests supporting reformist judges.
By the 2010 election, Mursi had become a spokesman for the Islamists and a member of their politburo.
He was jailed again on the morning of January 28, 2011, a day after the Muslim Brotherhood announced it would join the protests that would topple president Hosni Mubarak almost two weeks later.
Mursi, and other Brotherhood leaders arrested at the time, served only a few days before they were sprung from jail during massive prison breaks across the country.
He now presents himself as the only candidate with an “Islamic programme,” and dismisses reports of splits within his group over his nomination against the popular Abdel Moneim Abul Fotouh.
Abul Fotouh was expelled from the Brotherhood last year after he declared his candidacy.
At the time, the Islamists said they would not run a candidate for president, but they say they had a change of mind after discovering that their dominant bloc in parliament did not have the power to implement their party programme.
The Muslim Brotherhood believes in establishing an Islamic state gradually and through peaceful means, but Mursi’s focus has been mostly on issues that affect most Egyptians, such as the deteriorating economy since last year’s uprising.
Mursi is married, with five children and three grandchildren.