CAIRO – Allaying fears of Islamist domination of Egypt’s political landscape, Muslim Brotherhood’s presidential candidate Mohamed Mursi has vowed full rights for Christians and women under his presidency.
"I am committed to the presidency being an institution. It will never be an individual," Mursi told a press conference on Tuesday, May 29, cited by Reuters.
Mursi said Christian Copts will enjoy full rights like other Egyptians if he is elected president, suggesting they could take vice-president posts.
"Our Christian brothers, they are partners in the nation. They will have full rights that are equal to those enjoyed by Muslims," he said.
"They will be represented as advisers in the presidential institution, and maybe a vice president if possible."
Mursi, 60, is set to face off with Ahmed Shafiq, 70, a former premier under deposed president Hosni Mubarak, in election runoff on June 16-17.
Many of Egypt’s 50 million eligible voters are wary of having either a conservative Islamist or a former military man linked to Mubarak in charge. Some say they will not vote in the runoff.
An arson attack on Shafiq's campaign headquarters and criticism of Mursi have highlighted the polarization and disappointment of many ordinary Egyptians, adding tension in the final stages of a formal transition from the army rule to a new president by July 1.
Worried of the rise of Islamists after Mubarak’s ouster, many Copts, who make up nearly 10 percent of Egypt’s 80 million population, voted for Shafiq in last week’s election.
"Copts have all the rights of Egyptian citizens; there would be no religious discrimination whatsoever," Mursi vowed.
The Brotherhood candidate has also vowed full rights for women under his presidency, denying claims about imposing a code of dress for women.
“Women have a right to freely choose the attire that suits them," he said.
"No one compels anyone about clothes. Anyone who wants to wear hijab (the veil) is free to, or to wear whatever she sees fit from her point of view."
Mursi said he would seek to reach a broader coalition government to rebuild the country.
"The era of the superman is over," he said.
"The president cannot have the only say in decision-making as it did under the former regime...The presidential staff will work as a team and will not be dominated by the Brotherhood.”
Seeking to win support of defeated candidates, Mursi said he will appoint vice-presidents from outside the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) and said the prime minister need not be a member either.
The cabinet would be a coalition of all groups represented in parliament, he said.
"A coalition government will also be drawn up," he said.
"This government would consist of politicians from a variety of groups, not just Islamists or Brotherhood members ... and the prime minister will not be from the Brotherhood or the FJP."
Before the presidential vote, the FJP demanded the army-appointed cabinet be sacked and the FJP, with the biggest bloc in parliament, form a new coalition government.
The army, which holds presidential powers during the transition, ignored the demand but the row was one of several that put the group at odds with the generals.
But at his press conference, the Brotherhood candidate sought to play down differences."The army undertook a great role protecting the revolution. Yes, there were mistakes. But there were achievements and positive points. We need to avoid confrontation and distrust."