Egyptian presidential candidate from the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohamed Mursi, on Tuesday sought to dispel fears he would impose the Sharia if elected president, voicing his support for women’s rights and freedom of expression and saying Coptic Christians would be his “partners” in building the country.
Mursi, who will square off against former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq in the second round of the presidential election in June, said he is committed to a system of checks and balances where powers are separated.
“We want a democratic, national state with a separation of powers,” he said, adding that his goal is to “build a free and democratic Egypt that will enjoy social justice.”
The U.S.-educated engineer and the head of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party said his priority as president would be restoring security and order to the country after 15 months of unrest that has inflicted significant damage on the economy raised the levels of poverty and unemployment.
Mursi also sought the backing of frustrated liberal voters, who found themselves after the first round election results torn between an Islamist who may later turn against them and old regime figure who has hinted at ruling the country with an iron grip.
He pledged to “preserve the right for peaceful protest and demonstration” and vowed to respect women’s rights and their freedom to wear the “Hijab (Islamic headscarf) or any dress of their choice.”
This statement appears to be a major concession by an Islamist leader who had pledged during his campaign to impose Sharia law, which includes a strict dress code for women.
He also sought to reassure the country’s Coptic Christians, the majority of whom reportedly voted for his rival Shafiq in the second round.
“The Copts are partners in the nation and they have all their rights,” Mursi said, adding that Christians “will have a role” in the presidency if he is elected. All the “Egyptians are equal in rights and obligations,” he said, according to Alarabiya.