CAIRO (AP) — The presidential candidate for Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood on Tuesday sought to expand his support base ahead of a tight runoff against an ex-regime figure next month, vowing to ensure the full rights of Christians and women if he is elected.
Mohammed Morsi also tried to reassure the pro-democracy youth groups who drove the popular uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak's regime 15 months ago, saying he will protect the right to stage peaceful protests and sit-ins.
Morsi claimed the top spot in the first round of Egypt's landmark election last week, putting him in the June 16-17 runoff vote against Ahmed Shafiq, a former air force commander and Mubarak's last prime minister.
Both candidates are highly polarizing figures, and are scrambling to broaden their base by appealing to groups that didn't support them in the first round.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday in Cairo, Morsi said he planned to appoint Christians as presidential advisers and name one as vice president "if possible," and said he would not impose an Islamic dress code in public for women.
"Our Christian brothers, they are partners in the nation. They will have full rights that are equal to those enjoyed by Muslims," Morsi said. "They will be represented as advisers in the presidential institution, and maybe a vice president if possible."
Women, he said, will have full rights in jobs and education. "Women have a right to freely choose the attire that suits them," he said.
Morsi also vowed to create a broad coalition government, and said the country's new constitution would be written by a panel that is truly representative of the nation.
The Brotherhood and other Islamists who control more than 70 percent of parliament's seats packed the original constitutional panel with their own supporters in a bid to influence the charter. However, a court ruling disbanded it on the grounds that it did not observe the rules of selection spelled out in a constitutional declaration adopted last year.
Morsi and Shafiq qualified for the runoff after they finished as the top vote-getters in the first round of voting on May 23-24. Morsi won close to 5.8 million votes, or almost 25 percent, while Shafiq garnered 5.5 million votes, or nearly 24 percent, according to final official results announced on Monday.
Morsi also pledged to lift the decades-old state of emergency, which gives police wide powers of arrest and detention.