A protest against presidential candidate Ahmad Shafiq in Cairo’s Tahrir Square yesterday. The prospect of Shafiq succeeding Hosni Mubarak as president of Egypt is a nightmare for revolutionaries and Islamists. Image Credit: Reuters

Cairo: The streets in the Egyptian capital appeared almost deserted yesterday as most of the city's 17 million population stayed glued to TV screens following the latest reports on the landmark presidential election.

Preliminary results show that Mohammad Mursi, a candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood, and Ahmad Shafiq, Hosni Mubarak's last premier, are the top contenders in the polls. But neither secured a clear majority to avoid a runoff vote scheduled for June 16 to 17.

Islamist candidate Abdul Moneim Abu Al Fotouh, who failed to get enough votes in Egypt's presidential race to make the run-off, yesterday said he would back the Brotherhood in its bid to defeat Shafiq.

Mursi collected 26 per cent of the vote count in 25 of Egypt's 27 governorates, according to preliminary results released yesterday. Shafiq followed with 24 per cent, with the leftist contender Hamdeen Sabahi getting 20 per cent.

The election commission is due to announce the result on Tuesday.

Abdul Fatah Amr, a taxi driver who voted for Amr Mousa, the secular former chief of the Arab League, is worried about reactions to the result.

Several protest groups have threatened to stage a "second revolution" if Shafiq, the 70-year-old ex-army general, wins Egypt's top post.Saeed Mohram, an activist, said: "How on earth can we accept that Mubarak is ousted, only for his associate [Shafiq], or the Muslim Brotherhood's Mursi, to become the president?" "Either winning means that the blood of the martyrs has been shed in vain."