Presidential Candidates: The Top Four

Wed, May 23, 2012, 01:00

Amr Moussa (75):a former Egyptian diplomat who served in mis- sions in Switzerland, India and the UN and held the position of foreign minister from 1991-2001. He became popular in Egypt and the wider Arab world because of his criticism of Israel for its treatment of the Palestinians. During 2000, a song entitled I Hate Israel with the refrain, “I love Amr Moussa” became a hit in Egypt, apparently prompting the regime to secure his appointment as secretary general of the 22-member Arab League to remove him as a potential rival to President Hosni Mubarak in the 2005 election.

During his final years at the league, he riled the Egyptian government and the US by condemning Israel’s 2008-2009 military offensive against Gaza and by backing Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas’s demand that Israel should halt settlement expansion in the West Bank as a condition for holding negotiations with the Palestinians.

Moussa supported reforms promoted by leading Egyptians ahead of the controversial 2010 election, in which the ruling party took nearly all assembly seats. He backed the uprising and declared his intention to run for the presidency. He established an effective campaign organisation and put forward a programme. He has the advantage of widespread recognition although he also suffers from the disadvantage of being closely associated with the former regime. Last summer, polls indicated he was the most likely to succeed but he has since been overtaken by Aboul Fattouh.

Muhammad Mursi (61):a California-educated engineering professor, candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood and head of the parliamentary bloc dominated by the movement’s political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party. He became its back-up candidate when Khairat el-Shater, a charis- matic figure, was disqualified due to time served in prison for illegal Brotherhood activity. Mursi was elected to parliament as a Brotherhood- backed independent in 2000 and served until 2005.

A conservative, he was on the Brotherhood’s Guidance Bureau and has pledged to install Sharia law. During the campaign, he has proclaimed at rallies, “The Koran is our constitution, the Prophet is our leader and religious struggle is our way.” This proclamation is in line with the movement’s slogan, “Islam is the solution”. A more low-key candidate than either Abul Fattouh or Moussa, Mursi counts on the Brotherhood’s widespread support and its political mechanisms to secure him the presidency. However, Mursi does not enjoy the popularity of Aboul Fattouh or the recognition of Moussa.

Many Egyptians who backed the Brotherhood after the uprising toppled Mubarak are disillusioned because it has made and broken promises. The Brotherhood pledged to field candidates for no more than one-third of the seats but broke this promise and won nearly half. The Brotherhood said it would not put forward a candidate for the presidency and nominated two. It promised not to take over the commission writing a new constitution – and it did.

Ahmad Shafiq (71):the last prime minister appointed by Mubarak before he was ousted by the military. A senior commander in the air force, he was closely associated with the former president who made his career in this service.

He was a fighter pilot under Mubarak’s command and was credited with shooting down two Israeli war planes during the October 1973 war.

In 1991, he became air force chief of staff and in 1996 commander of the air force. In 2002, he was appointed civil aviation minister. He improved airport management and upgraded facilities, transforming Cairo airport into a regional hub. However, he alienated many with his abrasive approach and style and by discouraging foreign carriers from taking a larger share of the domestic market, thereby challenging the national carrier.

Shafiq served as premier from January-March 2011 and was forced out after performing badly during a television debate. He was seen as Mubarak’s man even after the president had stepped down and as safe hands for the military council that assumed his powers. His resignation after two months was seen by revolutionaries as the first tangible result of popular pressure on the military to agree to their demands following Mubarak’s ouster.

In recent weeks his popularity has grown with upper- and middle-class Egyptians who fear economic collapse and breakdown of security. But most seem to believe that a vote for him would amount to betrayal of the uprising.

Abdel Moneim Aboul-Fattouh (61):a medical doctor who began his po- litical career as a student activist with the Muslim Brotherhood.

He once engaged in debate with President Anwar Sadat, whose supporters he characterised as “hypocrites”, a particularly condemnatory term in the Islamic context. An effective Brotherhood organiser, he was arrested in 1981 and jailed 1996-2001. Before and after his imprisonment, he served as head of the Arab Medical Union.

He was on the Brotherhood’s Guidance Council between 1987 and 2009, when he was ejected for liberal views. He called for the movement to separate religious and political work.

During the 2011 uprising, he broke with the Brotherhood’s leadership by joining the revolutionaries in Tahrir Square. As head of the medical union, he organised field hospitals to treat protesters wounded during attacks by pro-Mubarak security forces. He was expelled from the Brotherhood after he said he would run in June last year.

He promotes the polity of a “civil” (secular) state but calls for the introduction of some elements of Muslim canon law, Sharia. He supports equality and religious and civil freedom and has a well-developed presidential programme. He promises to focus on social and economic problems rather than political issues and has the backing of not only liberal fundamentalists, particularly youngsters who have left the Brotherhood, but also “revolution- aries” who managed the uprising, and ultraorthodox Salafis, the Brotherhood’s main competitors.