Cairo: Appearing jittery over impressive gains made by moderates, Muslim Brotherhood, a front-runner in the first round of Egypt`s presidential elections, is desperately reaching out to Islamist forces to close ranks for an unexpectedly tough battle in the run-off.
In the build up to the run-off on June 16 and 17, a shaken Brotherhood has also mounted a massive smear campaign targeting its sole rival left in the field, Ahmed Shafiq.
The Brotherhood is labelling him as an ex-military man and a holdover from the autocratic era of fallen president Hosni Mubarak in attempts to re-unite forces which led the `Spring Revolution` that toppled Mubarak.
The Brotherhood declared their `fallback` candidate Mohamed Mursi, the front-runner in the elections held on May 23 and 24, after all the votes have been counted, but appeared to be shaken by the showing made by moderates and leftists, al-Arabiya channel reported.
According to Brotherhood`s own estimates, Mursi was a front-runner with 25.3 per cent of the votes, followed by Shafiq who got 24 per cent and pan-arabic socialist Hamdeen Sabahi, who also ran close with 22 per cent.
The Brotherhood is now chanting a new slogan that "revolution is in danger and Shafiq is against democracy" to ensure consolidation of votes that went to other candidates in the first round of polling, which proved inconclusive.
The Brotherhood, al-Arabiya said, was making desperate attempts to woo the movement`s bitter rival Abdel Moneim Abul Fotouh, a former Brotherhood leader, who ran independently of the movement.
"We call on all sincere political and national forces to
unite to protect the revolution and to achieve the pledges we took before our great nation," a Brotherhood statement said.
"We now face desperate attempts to reproduce the old regime," it said.
The Brotherhood has been emboldened by a Fotouh`s statement after the first round, calling on Egyptians to confront "the corrupt regime" in the run-offs, a veiled reference to Shafiq.
But, the Brotherhood, which almost had a landslide in the parliamentary elections, appears "worried" and "jittery" over where the voters of socialist Sabahi will go.
Hamdeen Sabahi, a former parliamentarian from the Nile Delta popular with many pro-revolution Egyptians who had been imprisoned 17 times under previous presidents, appeared to have fallen short of a place in the runoff vote by several hundred thousand votes, al-Jazeera reported.
The channel quoting young supporters of Sabahi said, "If [Sabahi] doesn`t win, it means the revolution didn`t succeed, and it wasn`t worth the martyrs dying for others to live."
Al-Jazeera said that the prospect of a Morsi-Shafiq runoff represents a worst-case scenario for many pro-revolution Egyptians who must now choose between a conservative religious organisation and a man they view as an extension of the fallen Mubarak regime.