Via NY Times, by David K. Kirkpatrick--excerpt, read on.
At the lunch of elite businessmen held this month by the American Chamber of Commerce in Egypt, an umbrella group for multinationals and those who work with them, the crowd erupted in applause.
It was a vivid demonstration of the unexpected surge of support that Mr. Shafik, a former air force general and Mr. Mubarak’s last prime minister, hopes will help him win a mid-June presidential runoff against Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood. A victory would make him Egypt’s first freely elected president, setting the template for the country’s post-Mubarak future.
Mr. Shafik, 70, and Mr. Morsi, 60, offer a rematch of the struggle that has driven Egyptian politics for six decades, between secular authoritarians and Islamists who promise a novel experiment in religious democracy.
Mr. Shafik’s bid for the presidency turns on the fears of an Islamist takeover on one hand and of pervasive lawlessness on the other. These fears are the glue that hold together his secular-conservative coalition of elite businessmen, former military officers, members of Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority and cosmopolitans who worry that Islamist electoral victories will mean a more pious and intolerant culture.
These fears were much in evidence at the American Chamber event. The well-heeled audience cheered as Mr. Shafik suggested that he would use executions and brutal force to restore order within a month, repeatedly mocked the Islamist-led Parliament and accused, against all evidence, the Islamists of harboring hidden militias to use in a civil war.
“The problem with security is that we don’t want security because we want to be the only ones with militias,” Mr. Shafik said, referring clearly, if obliquely, to the Islamists. “Because we want to turn Egypt into a Lebanon.”
But there was hope, he added: “The Egyptian people, contrary to the accusations, are obedient.”
Mr. Shafik’s chances in the runoff are hard to assess because of the popularity of Islamist politics here and the Brotherhood’s unrivaled political machine. The Brotherhood and other Islamists won three-quarters of the parliamentary vote, but roughly split the first round of presidential voting with more secular candidates. Mr. Morsi and Mr. Shafik each received only about a quarter of the vote, with a narrow majority of voters backing candidates sharply critical of both the Brotherhood and former Mubarak officials.
It is too soon to guess how those voters will break. And by Sunday the three runners-up had all filed various legal challenges to the results with the unpredictable presidential election commission of top judges. Its ruling, which is final, is expected by Tuesday.
Fighting off other Islamists during the campaign, the Brotherhood reverted to an older style of religious politics, describing its program as a distillation of Islam and calling for Islamic law. But since the revolution, the Brotherhood has also sought to reassure Egyptians that it supports equal citizenship for all, including women and Christians, and does not plan to impose legal restrictions on personal behavior or expression. At Christmas, Brotherhood leaders visited churches while younger members stood guard outside.
In a television appearance on Saturday night, Mr. Morsi tried to woo Egypt’s Christian minority, which is about 10 percent of the population. “Egypt belongs to all,” he said, implicitly blaming Mr. Shafik and the Mubarak government for their grievances. “Who killed them in protests? Who prevented them from building churches? The old regime, not us.”
Mr. Morsi sent Khairat el-Shater, the Brotherhood’s dominant strategist and a business tycoon, to represent the Brotherhood at another American Chamber lunch. Mr. Shater gave a speech so committed to promoting free markets, foreign investment and other business interests that some in the Chamber said it was as if he was reading their own talking points.
But the audience was too afraid of the Islamists’ potential social agenda to give them any credit, two people who were present said.
In the runoff, Mr. Shafik has sought to seize the mantle of the “glorious revolution.” After the applause for his admiration of Mr. Mubarak at the American Chamber lunch, Mr. Shafik specified that what he admired was his friend’s ability to keep his personal feelings out of his official decisions.
But critics say they feel like the revolution never happened. For a decade before Mr. Mubarak’s ouster, Mr. Shafik had been acclaimed as a potential inside candidate to succeed him, with the blessing of the elite within Egypt’s military-backed autocracy.