Cairo: Thousands of people took to the streets in cities across Egypt on Friday to demand that Ahmed Shafiq, a former senior official in Hosni Mubarak`s ousted regime, be disqualified from next month`s presidential runoff.
Shafiq, who served as Mubarak`s last prime minister, was one of the top two finishers in the first round of Egypt`s landmark presidential election last month, advancing to a June 16-17 runoff against Mohammed Morsi, the candidate of the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood.
The Morsi-Shafiq race is a polarizing contest. It mirrors the conflict between Mubarak, himself a career air force officer like Shafiq, and the Islamists he jailed and tortured throughout his years in power. But it sidelines the mostly young, secular activists who led the popular uprising last year.
In the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria, at least 7,000 protesters, some of them carrying Egyptian flags or holding their shoes in the air in a sign of disrespect, said that Shafiq should be barred from running because of his senior position in the Mubarak regime.
Smaller rallies demanding Shafiq`s disqualification also took place in Cairo, Port Said, Suez, North Sinai as well as at least six other provinces.
Shafiq has cast himself as a strongman who will restore law and order after nearly 16 months of sporadic but violent protests and a lapse in security. Shortly after the first round results were announced this week, Shafiq`s campaign headquarters in Cairo was torched.
Opponents view Shafiq as the favourite of the ruling military council that took over after Mubarak`s ouster. Egypt`s four presidents all hailed from the military.
Mubarak himself has been charged with complicity in the killing of nearly 900 protesters during the 18-day uprising that pushed him from power. A court is to hand down its verdict tomorrow.
Many Egyptians say they want neither Shafiq, considered "feloul," or a remnant of the Mubarak era, nor the Brotherhood`s candidate, Morsi, as their next president, and protesters criticised both candidates today.
"I am here and I don`t want Shafiq or Morsi because Shafiq spilled our children`s blood. I paid the price of this revolution upfront," said Magda, the mother of a protester killed during last year`s uprising. "As for the Brotherhood, they sat in parliament and what have they done?"
Some of the protesters today chanted slogans against both candidates as well as the ruling military council that took power after Mubarak was toppled, and some in the crowd said they will boycott the runoff.