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Presidential hopefuls in ‘rumor-spreading’ clash hours before Egypt polls close

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Egyptian presidential candidate Amr Moussa on Thursday denied rumors that he had pulled out of the race that has entered its second voting day, calling on opponent Ahmed Shafiq to back out of the election for spreading “untruths.”

“I have not pulled out of the race, my presidential battle is ongoing and I will continue to run for office,” Moussa, the former Arab League chief told Al Arabiya, speaking from a polling station in Cairo.

“I am calling on Ahmed’s Shafiq’s campaign to stop spreading rumors and insults about other presidential candidates; he should withdraw from the race,” he added, saying that Shafiq’s withdrawal would benefit his chances in the race.

Shafiq, the former commander of the Egyptian air force who was briefly prime minister during the February 2011 protests, has been repeatedly criticized by other candidates for being a deposed regime figure who served during ousted president Hosni Mubarak’s rule.

“I fear that Shafiq will return Egypt to a post- Jan. 25 era,” Moussa said, referring to Egypt’s January 2011 uprising.

“We need to build on the revolution and not go back to the days before it. I am calling on Shafiq to withdraw from the presidential race. I want to put a stop to his campaign if he wants to return to the past and previous policies, taking the country back to its post-revolutionary state.”

Presidential hopeful Shafiq was quick to counter Moussa’s comments however, saying that he will not pull out from the race.
“There is no reason for me to with withdraw,” Shafiq told Al Arabiya in a telephone conversation.

In response to Moussa’s allegations of insults and rumor-spreading, Shafiq accused the former league chief of “spreading lies.”

When asked what he considers his chances in the polls to be, Shafiq declined to answer, adding: “We are currently in an ‘election silence’ period,” referring to a ban on all activities of presidential campaigning which began on Monday.

Several of the candidates broke an election committee period of silence during the polling to shore up their chances and attack others, with Shafiq warning of a “huge problem” if the Islamists get into power.

The Muslim Brotherhood said its candidate, Mohammed Mursi, was ahead after Wednesday’s voting. Moussa’s campaign office also put Mursi in the lead with the former League chief second.

Moussa said he has seen “positive” election indicators, leading him to believe he has “great support.”

“I think the elections will result in a second round, and if this happens, I think I will be one of the candidates in the runoffs,” Moussa added.

A second round of voting in June would be the result of a number of undecided voters during the first round, making the result extremely difficult to predict.

The election caps a roller-coaster transition, marked by political upheaval and deadly bloodshed, but which also witnessed democratic parliamentary elections that saw Islamist groups score a crushing victory.

Results are expected on Sunday.

“I will welcome and respect the election result, whatever it is, as long as the outcome is transparent, with no campaign violations,” Moussa said.

(Written by Eman El-Shenawi)