CAIRO, May 25, 2012 (AFP)
CAIRO, May 25, 2012 (AFP)
Ahmed Shafiq, who looks set to face Islamist candidate Mohammed Mursi in a presidential run-off, is a retired air force general and Mubarak-era minister reviled by activists who spearheaded the 2011 revolt.
Shafiq gained support as a candidate in the country’s first post-revolt presidential election thanks to a strong law-and-order campaign in a country where many crave stability.
He was almost disqualified from the presidential race after the adoption of a law prohibiting senior members of the Mubarak era from running, but the decision was reversed at the last minute.
His campaign shifted to a higher gear in recent weeks, with huge portraits of him in a suit taking up the top spots of many buildings in Cairo and across the country.
Pollsters say Shafiq, who was forced to resign a month after Mubarak’s ouster by massive street rallies, won sympathy, particularly among female voters, after his wife died last month.
With a reputation as a good technocrat, Shafiq, 70, was appointed prime minister during Mubarak’s last days in power in a bid to appease the popular revolt that eventually overthrew the strongman on February 11, 2011.
But he has been criticised for his association with the old regime and for having retained many Mubarak ministers in his cabinet, a decision that would force him to resign under pressure from youth movements that spearheaded the uprising.
Like Mubarak, Shafiq was a pilot who graduated from the Military Aviation Academy and touts his many military successes. His campaign recently boasted that he shot down two Israeli planes in wars with the Jewish state.
He is also eager to highlight his civilian achievements, saying he modernised the national carrier Egyptair and Cairo’s international airport.
In a country where all presidents since the fall of the monarchy in 1952 have hailed from military backgrounds, Shafiq says he is “proud and honoured” to be a “son of the armed forces.”
He believes that one of his strongest assets is this military background, which he says will be crucial in ensuring a smooth relationship with the ruling military during the transition period.
But it could also be a disadvantage to a segment of the population who wants to see a clear separation between the presidency and the army.
Shafiq boasts of his “experience” and insists he is open to criticism, but in several television interviews he has showed a strict and impatient side.
To those who accuse him of being a “felool” — a pejorative term used by Egyptians to describe members of the old regime — he says that he was only “one of the (people) chosen for vital positions.”
“Who said I was not opposing the Mubarak regime?” he said, claiming to have objected to many decisions taken by the former regime and insisting he was more useful to his country by working for reform from the inside.
Shafiq has made security and the fight against crime his top priority.
If elected, he said he is prepared to appoint an Islamist vice president, whether from the powerful Muslim Brotherhood or the more hardline Salafi parties.
Shafiq has three daughters.