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After losing leadership role in parliament, Egypt's Brotherhood pins hopes on presidency
CAIRO (AP) ' On the eve of Egypt's presidential run-off, the Muslim Brotherhood tried Friday to salvage its hopes for leadership, urging voters to turn out to back its candidate in the race, after it lost its political stronghold with the dissolving of parliament.
Instead of calling for mass protests, the Brotherhood urged action through votes.
"Isolate the representative of the former regime through the ballot box," a Brotherhood statement said on Friday, referring to presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq who was Hosni Mubarak's last prime minister.
Shafiq faces the Brotherhood's candidate Mohammed Morsi in Saturday and Sunday's run-off, which pits a senior Mubarak-era figure against the Islamists his regime once oppressed and jailed.
With the Brotherhood eyeing the election as a final hope for retaining leadership after the uprising that toppled Mubarak last year, Morsi reassured that he would work closely with the country's military rulers and keep the interests of the military close to his heart.
"As president, they will be in my heart and will get my attention....they will never do anything to harm the nation," he said.
The Brotherhood became the biggest party in parliament last year after elections that were seen as Egypt's first democratic balloting in generations, but Thursday's court decision dissolved that power base and leaves the country without a legislature.
It is unclear how Thursday's dissolution of parliament will affect the race. It could bolster the Brotherhood's Morsi who represents for many the only option left to challenge decades of military power. It could also bolster Shafiq, who is believed to be the military's preferred candidate and who some voters see as the only hope for a secular state.
The decision was made by the Supreme Constitutional Court, which upheld a decision by a lower court that ruled a law governing the parliamentary elections was unconstitutional because it breached the principle of equality when it allowed party members to contest a third of the seats set aside for independents. It also deemed unconstitutional a law passed by parliament that would have banned Shafiq from the election for his senior ties to the former regime.
The Brotherhood reacted in its statement, saying progress made since Mubarak was ousted on Feb. 11, 2011, was being "wiped out and overturned."
The country is facing a situation that is "even more dangerous than that in the final days of Mubarak's rule," the Brotherhood said.
Power is now concentrated even more firmly in the hands of the generals who took over from Mubarak. In addition, this week the ruling generals'-appointed government agreed to extend the powers of military police and intelligence agents to allow them to arrest civilians for a wide range of offenses.
After Egypt's constitution was suspended with the overthrow of Mubarak, the incoming president's powers were not known. The ruling generals are expected to release in the next few days what the authorities of the incoming president will be.
The Islamist-backed parliament was fresh off the heels of a second attempt at forming a panel to write the constitution, which would have outlined the powers of the executive. The dissolution of parliament now raises the possibility that the military council could appoint the panel writing the constitution, a step that would fuel accusations that it is hijacking the process and intends to meddle beyond the July 1 deadline they announced for handing power over to a civilian president.
Activists who engineered Egypt's uprising have long accused the generals of trying to cling to power, explaining that after 60 years as the nation's single most dominant institution, the military would be reluctant to surrender its authority or leave its economic empire to civilian scrutiny.
One of the youth groups, the April 6 movement, which has thrown its support behind Morsi, planned a march to Cairo's Tahrir Square Friday afternoon dubbed "No to the military's soft coup." The Brotherhood did not call on its members to participate.
Just a few hundred people gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square after the rulings to denounce the action and rally against Shafiq.
In his interview late Thursday, Morsi said he does not see the court rulings as a military coup against the revolution, despite a statement by a senior Brotherhood member earlier.
Instead he said, "We are going to the ballot boxes to say no to the losers, the killers, the criminals."
Shafiq's opponents view him as an extension of Mubarak's authoritarian regime. Morsi's critics fears he and the Brotherhood will turn Egypt into an Islamic state and curtail freedom.
Leftist, liberal and secular forces who launched the pro-democracy uprising bemoaned the choice, and some talked of a boycott.
The Brotherhood claimed to have won a "landslide victory" in ballot counting from Egyptians living abroad, saying that Morsi won 75 percent of valid votes. The group did not release exact figures and official results have not been announced.