A leftist candidate has demanded a partial vote recount of the first round of Egypt's presidential election, citing violations. Hamdeem Sabahi polled third place and failed to qualify for next month's runoff.
The two surviving candidates in Egypt's landmark presidential election set about gathering support from defeated first-round candidates on Saturday to boost their chances in next month's runoff vote. But leftist contender Hamdeem Sabahi wasn't prepared to give up without a fight.
Sabahi, who came in third by a margin of some 700,000 votes, called for a recount of the first-round election late on Saturday, saying voting violations had cheated him out of a spot as one of the final two.
"We have information that conscripts voted illegally," Sabahi told a raucous crowd of supporters outside his campaign headquarters. "We will not give up the rights of Egyptians."
The move is likely to further complicate the runoff election, which will pit vastly polarized candidates Ahmed Shafiq and Mohammed Morsi against one another.
According to unofficial preliminary counts, Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, has a slight lead on his opponent after winning 25.3 percent in the first-round vote. A former prime minister under Hosni Mubarak, Shafiq secured 24.9 percent of the vote, while Sabahi was said to have followed closely, with 21.5 percent.
The choice between Morsi and Shafiq, who represent forces that have battled for the past six decades, has dismayed many Egyptians who voted for candidates offering a middle ground. Both are now seeking the support of the 11 other candidates who did not make it into the runoff.
Appealing to opposition
Shafiq sought to play down his ties to the former regime on Saturday, promising that Egypt had entered a new era.
"I promise all Egyptians that we will begin a new era," Shafiq said. "There is no turning back. We will not reproduce the past."
"Your revolution has been hijacked and I am committed to bringing [it] back," he told a news conference.
The Muslim Brotherhood, meanwhile, sought to rally the opposition behind Morsi. The Arab world's most influential Islamist organization painted Shafiq as a threat to the uprising that brought down the authoritarian Mubarak regime in February 2011.
"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," the Brotherhood said in a statement.
"Today we face desperate attempts to reproduce the old regime," the Brotherhood added.
The runoff is scheduled to take place on June 16-17.
ccp/ncy (AFP, AP, Reuters)