Page 2 of
2 A day in
the sun for Arab democracy By
His chances of victory are
high, but cracking the Brotherhood at the polls
remains a task that is very difficult. It is also
probable that neither Morsi nor al-Foutouh will
win, as they will divide the conservative Muslim
vote right in two, which ultimately plays out in
favor of the secular candidates, Amr Moussa, Ahmad
Shafiq and Hamdeen Sabbahi.
Moussa. He is a popular secular candidate,
with opinion polls predicting 32% of the vote for
him. He was for years Egypt's public face to the
international community, when he served as foreign
minister under Mubarak.
career as secretary general of the Arab League and
positions on the Iraq war in 2003, the Lebanon war
and the Gaza war in 2008
have all made him popular to Arab nationalists on
the streets of Egypt.
Some see him as the
most impeccable of all the candidates, while
others immediately dismiss him for having worked
with Mubarak for 10 years. They argue that nobody
would have risen so high during the Mubarak era
had he not been closely affiliated to the
intelligence services and the Mubarak family. At
one point, they argue, he was one of Mubarak's
many "yes" men.
The counter-argument is
that Mubarak "banished" him to the Arab League
when he became a little bit too popular for the
Moussa, it must be
remembered, steered clear from criticizing Mubarak
openly until it was clear to everybody that the
president was about to fall in February 2011,
making a grand entrance into Tahrir Square to call
for downfall of the Egyptian regime of which he
had once been a part.
To some that makes
him a revolutionary, whereas to others it
classifies him as a smart yet unashamed political
Moussa, aged 75, is a
seasoned politician with long years of experience,
meaning that he is more capable of running the
state than either al-Foutouh or Morsi. Seculars
support him ardently, so do former members of the
Mubarak regime and the business elite that longs
for the stability and prosperity they once enjoyed
Moussa has a strong network
of friends throughout the Arab world, ranging from
the king of Saudi Arabia to the emir of
Qatar, and is both trusted and respected by the
US, France, Russia - and Israel.
comes to office, it would be business as usual for
Egyptian-US and Egyptian-Israeli relations. His
victory would mean that the Camp David Accords
would be safe - for a while.
Shafiq. He is a former field marshal in
the army and also a one-time protege of Mubarak;
he served as prime minister during the president's
final hour. He is tipped to win 23% of the vote.
Precisely because of his military
background, most Egyptians shun him, having
rallied behind a popular cry: "Downfall of the
rule of Officers!" Shafiq for president, they
claim, would be Mubarak all over again. Officers,
they argue, think that countries can be run more
or less like professional armies, through strict
rules, drills and dictates.
The fact that
he still defends Mubarak, who is an officer like
him, adds to popular scorn towards Shafiq. He is
marketing himself as "Mr Security", but his
chances of victory are slim, running against
powerful Islamists like Morsi and al-Foutouh,
respected seculars like Moussa, and populist
figures like Hamdeen Sabbahi.
Hamdeen Sabbahi. He is a
secular, inspired by former president Gamal Abdul
Nasser, the godfather of Arab nationalism who
ruled Egypt with firebrand socialism between the
years 1952-1970. Sabbahi, aged 57, is expected to
win 12% of the vote, according to polls. He
studied mass communications at Cairo University
and built his career as a populist politician,
often making reference to the fishermen and
farmers with whom he grew up with as a child.
In 2000, he became an independent member
of parliament under Mubarak, only to be arrested
for opposing Egypt's stance on the 2003 Iraq War -
in complete denial of his parliamentary immunity.
One of his greatest setbacks is his
admiration for autocrats like Saddam Hussein of
Iraq and Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. He is
stirring up nostalgic memories of a bygone
socialist era, which was very popular among
day-to-day Egyptians but loathed by Egyptian
notability and the powerful business community.
He is a pan-Arabist and believes in
secularism and a classless society, two points
that automatically create a divide between him and
He is no match for Moussa's
charisma, al-Foutouh's cunning or Morsi's power
Sabbahi has said that if voted into
power, he would focus on restoring Egypt at the
heart of the Arab world, as it had been under
Nasser. He affirms that "peasants are the most
important class in Egypt".
about the Camp David Accords, he said, "I believe
that it has shackled Egypt and undermined its
status. I haven't been a supporter of the
Egypt-Israeli peace treaty, but if I become
president the abrogation of Camp David is not
going to be my priority."
He also said, "I
will cut off natural gas supplies to Israel, which
is not part of the treaty. We have no obligation
[to export gas to Israel]. It is a waste of
national wealth and a subsidy to an enemy who is
using it to kill our Palestinian brothers."
Camp David ultimately "may be subjected to
amendments or cancelation if the people want".
Such loud words appeal to the heart of
Arab nationalists not only in Egypt but throughout
the Arab world. The only chance he has of winning,
however, is if one of the two other secular
figures steps out of the race before the run-on
elections, and gives his votes to Sabbahi.
A close race It is highly
likely that none of these figures will emerge with
a strong majority of votes, making run-off
elections a necessity in June.
To win, a
candidate needs more than 50% of the votes. Each
of these five candidates, according to most
observers, will win anywhere between 10-30% of the
Whoever wins the run-off would
assume office on July 1, right after the powerful
Military Council, which has run Egypt since
February 2011, dissolves itself.
Islamists don't destroy each other, Morsi will
likely make it to the run-offs and compete against
either Moussa or Sabbahi, who is being hailed as a
compromise candidate, neither affiliated with the
former regime nor with the Islamists.
Other surprises might happen, when voters
realize - perhaps - that they don't want to give
too much power to the Brotherhood, because
parliament is enough for it to monopolize.
The outcome is very difficult to predict,
because each of the candidates - with the
exception of Shafiq - has his pros and cons.
It must be noted that apart from an
orchestrated multi-party presidential election
that took place under Mubarak in 2005, this is
Egypt's first real presidential election.
Ever since the monarchy was abolished in
1952, Egypt has had doctored elections -
plebiscites actually - where one person ran for
Nine plebiscites have
taken place since 1952, which resulted in only
three presidents during the past 60 years of
Three happened under
Nasser, two under Anwar Sadat, and four under
This was brainchild of Nasser and
his police state, which championed autocracy and
one-party rule that lasted from 1952 until being
forcefully dismantled by the January 25, 2011,
Regardless of who wins, it is
an historic moment for Egypt and a milestone for
the Arab Spring.
is a university professor, historian and
editor-in-chief of Forward Magazine in Syria.
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