CAIRO - Reviving the decades-old power struggle between Egypt's secular-led military elite and its powerful Islamist opposition, the Muslim Brotherhood presidential candidate will go through a vote run-off next month against ex-air force chief Ahmed Shafiq, the results that shocked many Egyptian revolutionaries.
"It is clear that the run-off will be between (the Brotherhood's) Mohamed Mursi and Ahmed Shafiq," a Brotherhood election official, who asked not to be named, told Reuters.
The Brotherhood's Guidance Office, its top body, was meeting to mull a campaign "to galvanize Islamists and Egyptian voters to face the bloc of the 'feloul'," he said, using a scornful Arabic term for "remnants" of Mubarak's order.
Egypt started counting votes late Thursday, May 24, after a two-day election to choose a new president to replace autocratic leader Hosni Mubarak, who was ousted in a popular revolt last year.
Counting started after polls closed at 9 p.m. (1900 GMT) with no reliable exit polls available, Reuters reported.
After counting some 90% of the votes, the Muslim Brotherhood said its candidate in Egypt's first free presidential vote would go through a run-off next month against Shafiq.
The early result will be confirmed officially next Tuesday, but representatives of the candidates were allowed to watch the count, enabling them to compile their own tally.
The Brotherhood official said that with votes counted from about 12,800 of the roughly 13,100 polling stations, Mursi had 25 percent, Shafiq 23 percent, a rival Islamist Abdel Moneim Abol Fotouh 20 percent and leftist Hamdeen Sabahy 19 percent.
The run-off is planned for June 16 and 17.
The election marks a crucial step in a messy and often bloody transition to democracy, overseen by a military council that has pledged to hand power to a new president by July 1.
No comments from any of the dozen candidates or state election officials were immediately available.
Election committee officials had said late on Thursday as counting began that turnout was about 50 percent of Egypt's 50 million eligible voters.
The Brotherhood official, however, said about 20 million votes were cast, or about 40 percent.
The results has polarized Egyptians between those determined to avoid handing the presidency back to a man from Mubarak's era and those fearing an Islamist monopoly of ruling institutions.
"Ahmed Shafiq will mean the old regime - the revolution is liquidated," said Hassan Nafaa, a political scientist who sided with the street against Mubarak.
With the Muslim Brotherhood it means we are too near to some kind of religious state.
If Mursi becomes president, Islamists will control most ruling institutions in Egypt, the most populous Arab nation, consolidating electoral gains made by fellow-Islamists in other Arab countries in the past year.
Participating in past year's revolution, the vote will cast Muslim Brotherhood's candidate against one of the remnants of Mubarak's fallen regime.
"What happened to our revolution? A Shafiq victory means a reproduction of the old regime and a Mursi victory will be a disaster," said Mohamed Hanafi, 30, a factory worker.
The Brotherhood will be in control of the presidency and parliament and will have a monopoly over everything.
"We don't know where it will all end," he said.
Some Egyptian said they were ready to return to Tahrir.
"I am in shock. How could this happen? The people don't want Mursi or Shafiq. This is a catastrophe for all of us," said Tareq Farouq, 34, a Cairo driver."They are driving people back to Tahrir Square."