Cairo - Two of Egypt's losing candidates, Amr Mussa and Abdel Moneim Abul Fotouh, on Monday declined to endorse either of the presumed front runners in a presidential election runoff.
Mussa and Abul Fotouh spoke at separate news conferences as unofficial figures showed that Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Mursi was set for a second round runoff against Ahmed Shafiq, the last prime minister under ousted president Hosni Mubarak.
Both Mursi and Shafiq had reached out to the losing candidates in a bid to broaden their appeal, after an election that polarised the nation.
A "return to the old regime is unacceptable. So is exploiting religion in politics", Mussa told a press conference.
"Egyptians will only be comfortable with a civil state. A religious state is something very divisive," he warned.
Mussa had said before the presidential election, the first since Egypt's 2011 uprising, that he would retire from politics if his bid failed.
On Monday, however, he left the door open for talks with the other parties.
"I will not be consulting with anyone. If they want to consult with me, I will consider it," he said.
Abul Fotouh also refused to openly back a single candidate, but said a return to the old regime was unacceptable.
"We will announce our position when the results are announced," said Abul Fotouh.
"The most important thing is that people don't vote for a felool," Abul Fotouh said, using a common pejorative term for members of the old regime.
Mussa, who served as foreign minister under Mubarak before becoming head of the Arab League, had been expected to do well in the presidential vote, which saw 13 candidates competing for the votes of some 50 million eligible Egyptians.
Fotouh, who campaigned on a consensus platform, had been tipped as a frontrunner with Mussa, but unofficial results put them at fourth and fifth respectively, after Nasserist candidate Hamdeen Sabbahi.
Egypt's electoral commission was expected to publicly announce the official results of the first round vote later on Monday.