Egypt's upcoming presidential run-off election is shaping up as a "very competitive race" in which the status-quo candidate could defeat his Muslim Brotherhood foe, experts said.
On Friday, Mohammed Morsi, the Brotherhood candidate, advanced to a runoff election slated for next month in the north African nation's first true open and competitive presidential election. Morsi will take on former leftist prime minister Ahmed Shafiq, who was close to ousted leader Hosni Mubarak, next month.
Alarms have been sounded in Washington, Tel Aviv and other nations about the prospect of the Brotherhood controlling both the Egyptian parliament and the presidency, but a closer look says otherwise.
Data from the first round of the presidential race shows Morsi should be in for a fight, says former Egyptian diplomat Karim Haggag. Shafiq "very surprisingly came in third place" and garnered the most votes in major Egyptian cities and rural areas that in the past have been "strongholds for the Muslim Brotherhood," Haggag said during a forum in Washington.
While the Brotherhood and other Islamist candidates appeared to be the new dominant faction after the parliamentary elections, the fallout from Friday's vote shows "a completely different political map that is highly diverse," Haggag says. That means "political pluralism is taking hold," he adds.
American University's Mohamed Alaa Abdel-Moneim notes "the situation is very unclear."
Abdel-Moneim suggested Shafiq might have an advantage as factions like wealthy businessmen, Coptic Christians, artists and members of the north African nation's security apparatus converge around the former Mubarak aide. Those groups are either skeptical of the Brotherhood's expected enforcement of a Islamic law, or eager for Mubarak-era business and security policies to remain in place.
John T. Bennett covers national security and foreign policy for U.S. News & World Report. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter.