At his Cairo campaign headquarters on Wednesday, a video showed scenes of the chaos that has flared across Egypt during the past year and a half. They were interspersed with images of Shafiq when he was an air force officer, posing with Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, Mubarak’s longtime defense minister who, as head of a military council, has served for the past 15 months as the country’s de facto leader.
“Safety must return with full force,” declared a narrator as Shafiq, 70, stood nearby. “Society won’t stabilize without the full force of the state.”
The traction Shafiq has gained was clear among voters interviewed across the capital on Wednesday, and recent polls that show him finishing in first or second place in the first round of voting. In the neighborhood of Abbasiya in central Cairo, a group of 800 people went to the polls together to tick his name on the ballot.
But Shafiq is also a deeply polarizing figure, disliked and distrusted by those who say he represents a return to the corruption and repression of the past.
On Wednesday, dozens of young men waited outside a suburban Cairo polling station for Shafiq to cast his ballot. They held pictures of anti-Mubarak demonstrators who died last year in Tahrir Square.
“We want to deliver a message to the voters that this man killed these people,” said Mohammed Ibrahim, 21, blaming Shafiq for staying silent despite the deaths last year of nearly 1,000 Egyptian protesters. “I won’t let him become president. He doesn’t even recognize the revolution.”
When the candidate finally arrived, the angry crowd shouted “felool,” or remnants, a term used to describe holdovers from the old regime. And as Shafiq rushed back out of the school, young men threw shoes at him, mobbed him and shouted again, according to witnesses and video of the episode.
“Such irregular and chaotic behavior will not deter him from moving forward,” a statement from Shafiq’s campaign said. “This is caused by the high indicators of the vote in his direction.”
In an interview inside his office in central Cairo, a confident Shafiq portrayed himself as the only candidate who could counter the rise of political Islam. The once-repressed Muslim Brotherhood, whose members were tortured and imprisoned under Mubarak, now dominates Egypt’s parliament. Its presidential candidate, Mohammed Morsi, is also among the leading contenders.