Friday 18 May 2012

Four firsts make Egypt’s elections historic

The 13 candidates (photo from Aljazeera)

Opinion polls are giving no clear pointers as to who will be leading Egypt after presidential elections set to be the freest the country has ever had.
Thirteen candidates are listed for the May 23 and 24 vote after a contentious disqualification process. If as expected no candidate takes an outright majority, a runoff between the top two will take place June 16 and 17, and a president would be declared on June 21.

The 13 presidential hopefuls (see “Meet the Candidates”) are:
1.   Abdelmoneim Abulfotouh, a practicing physician with extensive experience in relief work at an international level, a prominent Islamist activist, and a former leading Muslim Brotherhood figure
2.  Abdullah el-Ashal, an international law professor at the American University in Cairo, an Islamist thinker and a veteran diplomat
3.     Abul’ezz el-Hariri, a member of parliament and a socialist and labor activist for the last 45 years
4.    Ahmed Shafiq, a former commander of the Egyptian Air Force, diplomat and politician who was appointed prime minister in the final days of Hosni Mubarak’s rule
5.     Amr Moussa, a career diplomat who served as ambassador to India and to the UN in New York before being named foreign minister (1991-2001) first and then secretary-general of the Arab League (2001-2011)
6.     Hamdeen Sabahi, a veteran Nasserite opposition figure and former legislator
7.   Hisham el-Bastawisi, a prominent reformist judge who played a crucial role in the battle for judicial independence under Mubarak
8.  Hossam Khairallah, a career military officer with extensive experience in intelligence and international conflict resolution
9.    Khaled Ali, a well-known lawyer and activist who made a name for himself promoting social justice and defending the rights of workers, peasants and students over two decades
10.  Mahmoud Hossam Eddine Galal, a little known former police officer and businessman
11.  Mohamed Fawzi Issa, a 1964 Police Academy graduate who earned an additional law degree from Ain Shams University as well as a PhD in law in 1994
12.  Mohamed Mursi, an engineering professor who received extensive academic training in the United States and is now president of the Muslim Brotherhood
13.  Mohamed Selim el-‘Awa, Islamist intellectual, writer and prominent commercial litigator who holds diplomas in public and Islamic law and a PhD in philosophy from London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS)
At the time of this writing today, Friday, results of Egyptian expatriate voting in the United Arab Emirates, Austria, Washington, France, Sudan and Yemen were showing the race will come down to five candidates: Abulfotouh, Moussa, Sabahi, Mursi and Shafiq.
Earlier, the last weekly opinion poll by the Cairo-based Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies put Moussa in the lead, followed by Shafiq, Abulfotouh, Mursi and Sabahi.
The Baseera Center’s survey put Shafiq first, followed by Moussa, Abulfotouh and Mursi.
Another poll, by the Cabinet Information and Decision Support Center, had Shafiq, Moussa and Abulfotouh running neck and neck ahead of Mursi and Sabahi.
According to Gallup surveys released in Washington today, “Islamists appear to be losing steam in the lead-up to Egypt's presidential election next week. Less than half of Egyptians (42%) polled in April say they support the Muslim Brotherhood, a noticeable decline from 63% who said the same in February. Support for conservative Islamists, often referred to as ‘Salafis,’ is also down, but less dramatically.”
With the race so tight, a runoff vote seems inevitable, pitting one of the two Islamists (Abulfotouh or Mursi) against one of the three more liberal frontrunners: Sabahi, Shafiq or Moussa.
CBC TV channel's logo
Egyptian political analyst and the Middle East’s pioneer talk show host Imad Adeeb, in his daily column for Saudi Arabia’s Asharq Alawsat, gives his insight on the presidential elections after heading a panel that analyzed a series of presidential debates hosted by CBC (Capital Broadcasting Center) a free-to-air TV channel broadcasting from Cairo.

He hails the upcoming vote as a historic landmark for Egypt for four reasons. It is the first time in Egypt’s history, he writes, that:
One, presidential contenders are quizzed live by the media.
Two, candidates put forward diverse presidential platforms to address Egypt’s problems.
Three, each candidate tries to “market” himself and his platform on air.
Four, the Egyptian public does not know its next president just five days ahead of voting.
“The determining factor in these elections?”
In my opinion,” Adeeb writes, “the determining factor is the participation or abstention of the main body of apolitical and nonpartisan voters. They constitute at least 40 percent of voters. The higher their participation, the lower the chances of Islamist candidates. The greater their abstention, the more certain the victory of an Islamist.”