Egypt's former spymaster Omar Suleiman lashed out at the Muslim Brotherhood and insisted his candidacy for the presidency would restore stability, as the two sides sparred on Monday ahead of next month's polls.
The Brotherhood, which dominates parliament and is heavily tipped for the presidency, has "lost a lot of its popularity," according to Suleiman, who was military intelligence chief under ousted president Hosni Mubarak.
"There has been a change on the Egyptian street. The practises of the Brotherhood and their monopolistic ways and unacceptable pronouncements have contributed to the change in public opinion," he said in an interview.
Suleiman, a sworn enemy of Islamists before last year's revolution which brought down Mubarak, vowed not to drop out of the May 23-24 election despite alleged threats from Islamists.
"Ever since the announcement that I was running, I have received on my mobile and through friends threats and messages that 'We will take our revenge' from elements of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups," he said.
"If some people think such threats will make me go back on his decision, they are mistaken," said Suleiman.
The former general played down his links with the ousted regime or with the military which has been ruling Egypt in the interim since Mubarak's fall.
"If I was intelligence chief and then vice president for a few days, that doesn't mean I was part of a regime against which the people mounted a revolt," he said.
"The revolution has created a new reality and noone can bring back a regime which has fallen and which the population has rejected," he said.
"I am counting on the little people, on the young and on intellectuals. I am counting on those who want security and stability, who want to be able to earn a living in dignity and freedom," he said.
Suleiman said he could "save the country from its chaos" by restoring security and attracting foreign investors to return to Egypt.
The Brotherhood's candidate for next month's polls, Khairat El-Shater, likened Suleiman's candidacy to an attempt "to steal the revolution" and warned it could set off another round of huge street protests.
"The Egyptians did not make their sacrifices just for Mubarak's vice president to make a return," he told a news conference, referring to the hundreds of lives lost in the revolt.
"The candidacy of Omar Suleiman is a humiliation for the revolution," Shater said. "If there is an attempt to steal the revolution, we will go back into the streets" to demonstrate.
"We refuse this attempt to reproduce a modified version of the old regime which Mr Suleiman represents."
Registration for candidates in Egypt's first post-uprising presidential election closed on Sunday, amid last-minute twists and turns that have shaken the political race.
Apart from Shater, the candidates include former Arab League chief Amr Mussa, ultra-conservative Islamist preacher Hazem Abu Ismail. Suleiman himself registered less than half an hour before the deadline.© ANP/AFP