In an address to journalists on Saturday afternoon, former prime minister and presidential election front-runner Ahmed Shafiq said the revolution has been stolen from the youth and that he will make sure to return it to them.
It was a very different mood at his campaign headquarters to that of previous press conferences.
Suddenly, the former army officer has found himself the main act in Egypt’s presidential elections after coming second to the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsy. Initial results say he reaped 24.5 percent of the votes. Both will enter run-offs.
Entrance to the pleasant suburban villa that houses the Shafiq campaign was heavily restricted, campaigners perhaps trying to avoid a repetition of what happened when Shafiq went to cast his vote in his New Cairo polling station on Wednesday. He had a shoe thrown at him.
Shafiq, standing on a wooden block in front of a podium set up in the villa’s garden, addressed a writhing throng of photographers and cameramen. He chided them when they refused to move away from the podium.
Talk of the revolution dominated Shafiq’s statement.
After thanking Egyptians who “answered his call” and voted for him, he said the elections would not have happened without the revolution and those who made sacrifices and died for it.
There would be “no turning back,” Shafiq said.
“I promise all Egyptians we will start a new era. There will be no return. We do not want to reproduce the old regime. The past is dead,” Shafiq told journalists.
But when several journalists questioned Shafiq about his connections with the former regime, he gave them short shrift, telling one journalist “again? I’m bored of these questions,” prompting laughter from the press conference.
Shafiq dedicated a part of his address to Egypt’s young people, specifically “the 6 April Youth Movement and the Ultras [hardcore football fans who've had a prominent presence in protests over the past year and a half], who want decent youth centers.” He said, “the revolution has been stolen out of your hands. I promise to return to you its fruits.”
During the 18-day uprising last January, Shafiq appeared on television and mockingly offered the protesters candy if they would go home. He has since referred to the revolution as "unfortunate."
In the conference, he also thanked the army for ensuring fair elections, which “reaffirmed their historic role.”
He then turned to some of his presidential election opponents, running through them one by one: “Abdel Moneim Abouel Fotouh, the doctor and the politician. My friend and brother Amr Moussa the international diplomat. The respectable judge Hesham al-Bastawisi.”
Addressing Egyptians at large, to whom his talk about stability has been currency, he said, “Egyptian citizens: At the start of the manifesto I announced during the first round of elections, I promised security. Your millions of votes say that you want that and do not want our country to sink into chaos. My promise to restore security still applies, according to the law and with respect for human rights.”
Shafiq also promised job opportunities, social justice, “acceptable” healthcare, comprehensive social insurance and development. He said that these goals would only be attained “if there is stability.”
“There is no stability without security,” Shafiq said.
Addressing his political opponents, Shafiq said he is “open to dialogue” with all political forces while at the same time being “determined” to build an “alliance with the people.” In an interview on Friday with Al-Hayat satellite channel, Shafiq said he wouldn't mind the Brotherhood forming a cabinet if he is elected president.
Shafiq said that his presidential race is motivated not by ambitions for power but by a desire to “take Egypt into a new era.”