Egypt candidate: Ahmed Shafiq, former prime minister
- 8 June 2012
- From the section Middle East
Just a year after he was forced to resign as Egypt's prime minister because of his links to the government of the ousted President Hosni Mubarak, Ahmed Shafiq hopes to return to political life as head of state.
If Mr Shafiq succeeds, he will become the latest in a succession of military men to rule since the 1952 Young Officers' Revolution.
A former fighter pilot, like Mr Mubarak himself, Mr Shafiq served as commander of the Egyptian air force from 1996 to 2002.
He then went on to become the country's first civil aviation minister, earning a reputation for administrative competence and efficiency.
Mr Shafiq, 70, denies being backed by the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (Scaf). However, he argues that his knowledge of the military means he can ensure a successful handover of power.
With many Egyptians worried by the deterioration in security since last year's uprising, Mr Shafiq attracts voters who see the military as the only institution that can prevent complete turmoil.
In the first round of the presidential election in May, he drew support from state employees and their families as well as influential businessmen and members of the former ruling NDP party.
Some Coptic Christians, particularly in Upper Egypt, voted for him as a bulwark against rising Islamist influence.
He finished with 23% of the vote, a close second behind Mohammed Mursi, the chairman of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP). The two men are due to go through to a run-off for the election on 16 and 17 June.
Among young Egyptians who took part in the uprising, the prospect of Mr Shafiq taking over as president incites anger and resentment. They see him as a counter-revolutionary.
After the declaration of the first round's official results, a fire was started in storage buildings at Mr Shafiq's campaign headquarters in Cairo. Later in the same week, there were attacks on campaign offices in provincial towns.
Hundreds of protesters also gathered in Tahrir Square and in Alexandria, denouncing Mr Shafiq as a "faloul", a remnant of the old regime.
Mr Shafiq was selected to be prime minister on 29 January during the last days of the Mubarak presidency.
His relationship with the protesters in Tahrir Square worsened as he ignored their demands and offered to send them sweets.
His slow response to one of the darkest days of the uprising, the so-called "Battle of the Camel", in which assailants on horseback and camels attacked the square, is well remembered.
As pressure mounted on the military, Mr Shafiq stayed in his post for just three weeks after the end of the revolution.
Reaching the middle
Ahead of the presidential election's first round, Mr Shafiq declared that he was the only candidate who could "prevent Egypt descending into a bloodbath", adding that "those who scare Egyptians from voting for me want a weak president".
As polling went on there were bitter exchanges between his camp and that of another contender, the former Arab League secretary general, Amr Moussa. It became clear that the former had taken valuable ground over his rival.
He also won in traditional strongholds of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Nile Delta.
The challenge for Mr Shafiq now is reaching out to voters for whom he was not the first choice of candidate.
In a televised address on 26 May, he embraced the task saying: "I'm stretching out my hand to all Egyptians. I accept all dialogues with all politicians from all forces".
"We are going to start a new era," he promised. "There is no option to rebuild the old regime."
Mr Shafiq has stressed that he is the only option to prevent Islamist domination of the parliament and the presidency.
He has warned young Egyptians: "The revolution, which you triggered, has been hijacked and I am obliged to bring its outcome back to your hands."
Born in 1941 in Cairo, Ahmed Shafiq graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1961. He later completed a master's degree in military sciences and a PhD in military strategy.
He fought in three wars including the 1973 Arab-Israeli war in which he was a senior fighter pilot under Hosni Mubarak's command. He is said to have downed two Israeli aircraft.
After leaving the military and diplomatic service, it was widely believed that Mr Mubarak helped set his career path, even creating the post of civil aviation minister, in which he served for a decade.
Mr Shafiq's accomplishments in this role included restructuring the state-owned airline, EgyptAir, and renovating the nation's airports.
While many members of the former cabinet have been convicted of corruption, lawsuits filed against Mr Shafiq have not led to charges. He denies any wrongdoing.
Yet a law passed by Egypt's parliament in April still poses an obstacle to his campaign. This was intended to ban top officials who served under Mr Mubarak in his last decade in power from becoming president.
On 14 June, the Supreme Constitutional Court is due to deliver a ruling on whether the legislation should be allowed to stand.