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Egyptian media target Islamist candidate

Suhaib Salem / Reuters

A man reads a newspaper featuring Muslim Brotherhood presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq outside his shop in Cairo on Wednesday.

CAIRO – With Egypt ready to go to the polls this weekend in the presidential run-off election – swords are being drawn between the Islamic Muslim Brotherhood’s political party and remnants of the old regime.

On Thursday, judges appointed by former President Hosni Mubarak dissolved the Islamist-dominated parliament and ruled that Mubarak's former prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq, can stand in the presidential runoff this weekend. 

Prior to the dramatic court ruling – described as a military coup by some commentators – the  Egyptian media took to the airwaves to blast the Muslim Brotherhood’s presidential candidate, Mohamed Mursi, raising questions about whether he was even fit to serve as president if he won the election.

Brain tumors, seizures, Hep C? 
The popular Egyptian talk show, NassBook, on the Rotana satellite channel, disclosed what it claimed were private medical records from the United States and Egypt. The show asserted the records proved that Mursi had had operations to remove benign brain tumors, which could cause him to suffer from seizures as a result, and is afflicted with Hepatitis C.   

Investigative reporter, Adel Hamoud, and talk show host, Hala Sarhan, displayed what they said was a pharmacy receipt showing that Mursi had purchased prescription medicine in the United States to treat Hepatitis C for 48 weeks.

Dismay in Egypt as court orders newly-elected parliament to be dissolved

Daniel Berehulak / Getty Images

A protestor stands on a barricade of barbed wire as Egyptian military police stand guard during a protest against presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq outside the Supreme Constitutional Court on Thursday.

They also showed what they claimed was a request from Mursi for medical assistance from an Egyptian university for the equivalent of roughly $42,000. The TV presenters maintained that the amount requested by Mursi indicated he needed major surgery. 

A separate newspaper report also alleged that Mursi had two operations to remove benign tumors in 1985 and 2008 in the U.S. and London, respectively. 

Mursi’s media relations person, Dr. Murad Ali, called in to the talk show to defend the candidate, pointing to Mursi’s ability to take part in a punishing campaign schedule as proof that the candidate is in good health.  Ali repeatedly refused to answer pointed questions about previous brain surgeries. 

Photo blog: Egypt court rules Shafik can run in presidential election

‘Spare has a flat’
Whether the late breaking reports of ill health will sway undecided voters is still uncertain. Mursi’s bedrock supporters would vote for him “if he were a body in a coffin,” said one political observer. But others might be influenced by his alleged ill health.   

“The spare has a flat,” quipped one voter. Egyptians jokingly refer to Mursi as “the spare” after he replaced Khairat El Shater as the Muslim Brotherhood candidate.  El Shater was disqualified days before the first round of voting because he was recently imprisoned under the Mubarak regime.

Other stories in Thursday’s independent newspapers could discourage voters who are already lukewarm on Mursi. 

The Shurouk newspaper’s headline promised “Details of the Secret Meetings Between the Brotherhood and the Military before the Elections.” The Al Dustour newspaper asked “Will Egypt become like Tunis??!!! The Brotherhood Rule Tunisia….and the people can’t remove them [from power].” And the Wafd paper warned its readers that “The Brotherhood will lead Egypt toward a Military Coup.” 

Many here are considering voting for Mursi as the lesser of two evils. They view a vote for former Prime Minister Shafiq as a vote for the old disgraced regime. 

In a hard-fought race between two candidates who were neck and neck in the first round of elections, each vote counts and the last thing any candidate wants at this point is negative press.

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