CAIRO- Hundreds of activists gathered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square on Friday to demonstrate against presidential candidate Ahmed Shafik ahead of a run-off vote, saying they did not want to be ruled by another former military man.
Some of those in the square supported Shafik’s rival Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood, which already controls parliament, but others were frustrated that they face a choice between two of Egypt’s most polarising politicians.
Protesters have been angered by Shafik’s links to Egypt’s ousted leader Hosni Mubarak. Both men are former airforce commanders and Mubarak made Shafik prime minister shortly before being overthrown in a popular uprising 16 months ago.
The June 16-17 presidential run-off vote is the final step before the army, which took charge when Mubarak was driven out, formally hands over to a new president by July 1. That marks the end of a transition marred by protests, political bickering and sometimes bloodshed.
Mursi’s campaign ratcheted up its efforts on Friday, distributing flyers outside mosques after Friday prayers. The Brotherhood called on activists to join the demonstration in Tahrir, dubbed the “Friday of Perseverance”.
Many distrust the Brotherhood for reneging on an earlier pledge not to run for the presidency and say it has sought to hog power since it won the biggest bloc of seats in parliament, winning many more seats that it originally said it would seek.
The latest round of daily protests in Tahrir was triggered by the verdict in a trial of Mubarak on June 2, which added to suspicions that former president’s old guard were still in charge.
The court jailed Mubarak for life but acquitted six of his top security officials.
Protesters demanded both a retrial and enforcement of a law passed by parliament but not implemented that Mubarak-era officials be banned from participating in politics. The constitutional court will rule on the law’s validity on June 14.
Scores of demonstrators chanting and carrying banners marched from Tahrir toward the nearby cabinet office, where dozens of activists were in the third day of a hunger strike.
The hunger strikers were demanding that Shafik not be allowed to run for president, that thousands of prisoners held by the military be released and a retrial, activist Nawara Negm said.
“We won’t stop until parliament responds,” said Nawara. She said 41 other activists had joined her in the strike.