Protesters set fire Monday to the headquarters of Egypt's presidential candidate and ex-premier Ahmad Shafiq after the election committee said he made it into a run off vote with an Islamist rival.
CAIRO – Protesters set fire Monday to the headquarters of Egypt's presidential candidate and ex-premier Ahmad Shafiq after the election committee said he made it into a run off vote with an Islamist rival.
The assailants set fire to an annex of Shafiq's headquarters in Cairo hours after election officials announced that the holdover from Hosni Mubarak's ousted regime will face the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohammed Mursi in the second-round election.
A police official said eight suspects were arrested near the headquarters, a villa in the middle class Dokki neighbourhood.
Some of the protesters returned to the iconic Tahrir Square and threw campaign leaflets taken from Shafiq's headquarters on to the street. Many appeared to be supporters of an unsuccessful left-wing candidate and opposed both Shafiq and Mursi.
There were no immediate reports of injuries at the headquarters and firefighters said the blaze was quickly put under control.
"We were inside when they attacked us," one member of Shafiq's campaign staff said, without identifying himself. "They set fire to the garage that had general Shafiq's campaign literature."
Earlier around 1,000 protesters had gathered in Tahrir Square to protest Shafiq's presence on the runoff ballot.
"Shafiq will be president when I'm dead," read one poster on a car parked in the square, the hub of the nationwide uprising that ousted president Hosni Mubarak in February 2011.
Announcing the results at an earlier press conference, election commission chief Faruq Sultan said no candidate had won a majority in the May 23-24 vote so the two with the highest votes, Mursi and Shafi, would enter a run off.
The result has exposed a deep rift within the nation, which now will have to choose between a conservative Islamist and a symbol of the hated Mubarak regime.
A senior military official told AFP that the army, which took charge after Mubarak's ouster, had plans to deal with any violence ahead of the decisive election. Police officials said their forces were on alert.
Sultan said Mursi had won with 24.77 per cent of the votes, slightly ahead of Shafiq with 23.66 per cent.
Leftist candidate Hamdeen Sabbahi came third with 20.71 per cent, ahead of moderate Islamist Abdel Moneim Abul Fotouh with 17.47 per cent.
Former foreign minister Amr Mussa was fifth, trailing with 11.12 per cent.
The commission put the official turnout in the vote – the first since the 2011 uprising that ousted Mubarak – at 46 per cent of the 50 million Egyptians who were eligible to cast a ballot in the historic election.
Sultan said the commission had rejected seven appeals filed by candidates on May 26 and 27, citing electoral irregularities that "did not affect the outcome of the vote."
Both Mursi and Shafiq, who represent polar opposites in the country's fragmented politics after last year's uprising, are now trying to court the support of the losing candidates and their voters.
The Brotherhood, which alienated many other political parties after its domination of parliamentary elections last winter, has warned that the nation would be in danger if Shafiq wins and has pledged to become more inclusive.
Two of the losing candidates, Mussa and Abul Fotouh, declined to endorse either of the frontrunners, however. AFP