On May 23 and 24, Egyptians will flock to the polls for the first national presidential election since the ousting of former President Hosni Mubarak in the 2011 revolution.
Egypt, a country that suffered under iron clad dictatorship for the past 30 years, has many issues that will need to be addressed directly by each candidate. Economic and social reforms, freedom of the press, employment, education, health care, and housing have all deteriorated under the Mubarak regime.
With a climbing population of 85 million, Egypt’s socio-political landscape has many facets. Although 11 candidates are jostling for power, there are two main contenders that remain high on the political radar for many Egyptians.
Islamists and remnants of Mubarak’s regime (Flool in Arabic) are “butting heads” to win the hearts and minds of the people, while independent candidates are doing their best to stay in the race. Unfortunately, most candidates lack transparency or a clear political agenda and this is working in the favor of the two movements gaining popular political support.
There are approximately 20 million Egyptians that have access to social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. However, the remainder don’t have such access and rely solely on state television (Nilesat) or satellite TV for their information. Almost half of Egyptians live below the poverty line of $2 a day. General unemployment is at 12.4% and youth unemployment is at 25%. Egypt’s next president must overcome these challenges.
What’s alarming is that a bulk percentage of Egyptians who will turn to the polls are living in poverty, and are illiterate and don’t have an understanding of who they’re voting for. Such people have been victims of campaigns that rely on buying loyalty at a small price. Since January, the Muslim Brotherhood or Ikhwan (Brotherhood) visited poverty-stricken communities across Egypt to deliver small quantities of meat, oil, rice, and sugar to families in hopes that societies most vulnerable will pledge allegiance to their cause.
On January 30, Egypt’s governing Military Council released the official rules for each candidate running for president. These are set below:
- Candidates have to be born in Egypt to Egyptian parents
- May not hold dual nationality
- May not be married to a foreigner
- Require the support of 30 MPs or 30,000 voters.
- Candidates must have not served under Mubarak as a PM under the Disenfranchisement Law (Ahmed Shafiq is an exception to this rule)
In a presidential poll that was undertaken on May 14, the Egyptian Cabinet's Information and Decision Support Centre (IDSC) in which the highest scoring candidate was Mubarak's former prime minister Ahmed Shafiq, has raised many questions within the Egyptian political community and the general public.
According to Al Ahram, in the poll, Shafiq remained the favorite among the candidates, receiving 12% of total votes, with Amr Moussa as a runner up with 11%, followed by Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh at 9%. In the poll, 38% of sample voters said they are still undecided.
However, the sample size for the poll was only 1,390, an ill-representation of Egypt’s population. Upper-middle class Egyptians made up 29% of the sample, and the upper class elites made up 26%. As mentioned previously, the majority of people in Egypt fall into the lower socio-economic category, which only represented 33% of the poll sample.
In a different, non-IDSC poll, former Foreign Minister and Secretary General of the Arab League Amr Moussa has been ranked number one, with Shafiq and Abul-Fotouh following second and third.
1- Abu Al Ezz al Hariri
Born in 1946. Little is known about Harari. He’s a member of the People’s Assembly (Independent) and founding member of the leftist Socialist Popular Alliance. Former member of the al-Tagammu Party (National Progressive Unionist Party) and a staunch opposition figure against Mubarak’s regime in the early 1990s.
According to newspaper Al-Ahram, Hariri espouses all nationalist, leftist and pro-revolution world views.
He is opposed to the ruling Supreme Council Armed Forces (SCAF) and he supports bringing Field Marshall Tantawi, the supreme military head, to trial.
Although a staunch liberal candidate, he believes that he is able to garner popular support from the ultraconservative Salafi and Muslim Brotherhood movement gaining momentum in Egypt’s underprivileged society. He asserted, “I guarantee that many Brothers and Salafis from the underprivileged and youth groups will vote for me as I agree with them, in terms of politics, economics as well as social and national aspirations — they are devoted citizens. I am the one who will fulfill the religious vision: religion as guidance and education as solution. I am democracy: as resolution and dialogue."
Regarding his political ideals, he recently said, “The Leftist movement is approaching in Egypt as well as the whole world. The world is moving towards Leftism. The popular majority is heading left because leftist programs are the ones that defend the poor.”
2- Hossam Khairallah
War Veteran and current chair of the Nile Investment Company. Born in 1945, he served in the Egyptian military from 1976-2006. He took part in the Yemen War (1962-70) and the October War with Israel in 1973. He was the acting head of Information and Estimates in the General Intelligence Service.
He sees Mubarak’s regime as one that was plagued by “stagnation and corruption.”
Khairallah directed Egypt’s foreign policy for years, has a bachelor’s degree in military sciences, a BA in commerce, and underwent further postgraduate studies in the USA.
Khairallah supports a civil state, including rights for Copts and women.
Khairallah and his campaign were accused by Abu El Fatouh of paying bribes in several governorates to gather the 30,000 votes to get qualified for the race. These allegations by El Fatouh remain unsubstantiated.
Khairallah was officially endorsed by the Democratic Peace Party and according to Egypt Today, Khairallah has a “19-point platform and plans to start with economic development, education, healthcare, reducing unemployment and civility of state. All of this, he believes, falls under the umbrella of national security and will serve to bring order back to Egypt.”
3- Amr Moussa
Born in 1936, he is a high-profile political candidate considered one of the Flool due to his loyalty under the Mubarak regime. He was the former minister of foreign affairs from 1991 to 2001 and the secretary of the Arab League from 2001 until 2011. From 1981 to 1983, Moussa was the deputy permanent representative to the United Nations, then 1983 to 1986 was the ambassador to India. In 1990, he was promoted permanent representative of Egypt to the United Nations.
Amr Moussa is a staunch opponent of Israeli policy towards Gaza and the West Bank, and this year he announced that there is "no such thing" as the Camp David agreement. "This agreement is dead and buried. There is an agreement between Israel and Egypt that we will honor as long as Israel honors it.”
Moussa sees himself as a liberal candidate and in a speech earlier this month reported by the Los Angeles Times, he warned supporters of the Islamist movement in Egypt, "who want to keep us framed in poverty and ignorance."
Little is known as to where Moussa receives funding for his expensive campaign. In January this year, he vehemently denied allegations of being funded by the Saudi Arabian government. According to Moussa, “Riyadh stands at an equal distance from all the presidential candidates and political forces in Egypt.”
Moussa is rumored to have a questionable relationship to late Libyan dictator, Muammar Gaddafi. During the early days of the 2011 Libyan uprising, Gaddafi went on Libyan state television, declaring that he offered bribes including a car worth 42,000 euros to Moussa while he was still chair of the Arab League.
Moussa denied all statements broadcasted by Gaddafi. A statement issued by his PR office said, “The car presented by Gaddafi to Moussa was officially granted to Moussa and not a personal gift. Thus it was granted to serve the interests of the Arab League.”
Whatever the case, the relationship between himself, and Arab dictatorships leave much to be desired for Egyptians.
4- Dr. Abdel Moneim Abou al-Fotouh Abdel
A high-profile candidate with a dark history. Born in 1951, he staunchly opposes the Sadat and Mubarak regimes, and is rumored to be behind the political assassination of Anwar al Sadat. He is the current secretary-general of the Arab Medical Union. Described as a moderate Islamist politician, he is a former member of the Muslim Brotherhood (since 1970‘s but relinquished his support in 2011) and accused to be the founder of Al Jihad group in the 1980s and 1990s.
Fotouh was the president of Cairo University’s Student Union. In the early 1980‘s he and other presidential candidate, Hamdeen Sabbahy were at a student conference together and he was asking Sadat exactly what is the policy of his political leadership. He was quoted as saying, “As the leader of Egypt, do you want it (Egypt) to be a Muslim country? Buddhist? or Athiest?”
Fotouh was attacking Sadat and his regime because there was a student led march from one of the Mosques (Masgeds) the students were arrested by the Central Security Forces. This march was from students asking for their rights and demanding political changes as members of the Muslim Brotherhood. Abdul Fotouh was attacking Sadat because he was imprisoning Islamist thinkers and Sheikhs.
Many Egyptians worry that his loyalty will be to the Muslim Brotherhood in the case he wins the elections. On April 28, after Abu Ismail was disqualified from the race, he was officially endorsed by the Salafi Al-Nour (the Light) Party.
Just a few days ago, reports emerged that members of the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi Al Nour Party had been traveling through parts of Egypt carrying out acts of female genital mutilation (circumcision) on young girls. The Ikhwan’s (Muslim Brotherhood) media spokesman vehemently denied such allegations as a smear campaign aimed at attacking the legitimacy of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Under his leadership, the Al Jihad terrorist group was responsible for the following:
- October 6, 1981 assassination of President Al Sadat.
- October 7, 1981 the Al Jihad tried to break into state TV headquarters and take complete control of broadcasts.
- October 8, 1981 Al Jihad attached police HQ is Asute Governate in Upper Egypt resulting in the killing of 118 policemen.
- 1984 Al Jihad announced, “Anyone against the rules of Allah should be killed.” Meaning that any other religion is forbidden in Egypt.
- October 21, 1992, the killing of a British tourist south Dairut in Asute Governate.
- October 26, 1993, two Americans, one French and One Italian were attacked at the Hilton Semiramis hotel in Downtown Cairo.
- September 27, 1994, two German tourists were killed at a resort.
- March 4, 1994, attacked pontoon carrying tourists, resulting the the death of one German tourist.
- April 18, 1996, killed 18 geek tourists in Giza.
- November 17, 1997, the “Luxor Massacre” 62 tourists were killed by knives and automatic weapons.
5- Dr Hisham Al Bastawisi - Leftist
Born in 1951 and graduated from Cairo University with a degree in Law in 1976. Bastawisi is a well known judge and liberal figure in Egyptian politics. Bastawisi aims at fostering positive regional and international relations including rebuilding ties with Iran and Israel.
Bastawisi wants to hold Mubarak and all members of his regime accountable for fraud and corruption. He played a central role during the 2005 parliamentary elections, with other judges against Mubarak’s regime, which resulted in him refusing to monitor the elections, citing gross violations by the Security Council.
According to El-Bastawisi, he promised to reinstate the Camp David accords to a more Egyptian-friendly policy. According to Egypt’s Al-Ahram newspaper, this included “adding that the army should be present in Sinai to protect the country's borders, something not possible under the 1979 treaty.”
6- Mahmoud Hossam Eddin Galal
The second youngest candidate, born in 1964, Galal was a long-serving police officer who left the force in 1995 to devote his career to law enforcement reform. He is the founding member of the El-Bedaya (Beginning) Party, a liberal party similar in its ideology to the disbanded National Democratic Party (NDP).
Galal’s main political focus on economic and law enforcement reform.
7- Dr. Mohamed Saleem Alaawa - Islamist Thinker
Born in 1942, Alaawa is a prominent lawyer and Islamist thinker. He believes in building positive relationships with the West, particularly Europe. Alaawa believes that a Western/European government will aide peace building in the Middle East. When asked about Sarkozy being beaten out as prime minister of France, he said “a socialist candidate would adopt a ‘better approach’ to the countries of the Middle East, unlike Sarkozy who, had a history of hostility towards Arabs."
Alaawa sees himself as a key figure that will aid political and Islamic reform in Egypt.
"I consider myself a part of the reformist trend in Islamic thinking,” Alaawa said. “I have been preoccupied with the issue of Islamic reform, though on the level of political thought not political activism."
8- Ahmad Shafiq
Shafiq was initially disqualified from the presidential race following the passing of the Disenfranchisement Law stating that contenders must have not served as PM’s under the Mubarak regime, but the Presidential Elections Committee (PEC) accepted his appeal against the decision and allowed him in the race earlier this month.
Born in 1941, he is the former aviation minster and considered one of the Flool due to his strong bond with Mubarak. Shafiq was a senior commander in the Egyptian air force and had a short stint of political power, acting as the interim prime minister of Egypt from January to March 2011.
Members from the parliament claim that Ahmad Shafiq took advantage of his position as the minister of aviation and it is rumored that they have in their possession documents to accuse him of corruption and abuse of powers due to him building one additional air observation tower (while there was 2 others), 3 extra runways while Cairo’s airport didn’t require such construction for the level of traffic. He is also accused of corrupting Cairo Airport and Egypt Air staff, and documenting aircraft as official airport revenue.
9- Hamdeen Sabbahi
Born in 1954, a graduate of Cairo University’s, Mass Communication department, he is the leader of the Dignity Party (Independent) and seen as one of the trouble makers in the time of former President Gamal Abd Al Nasser. There are worries of him following Nasser's path which is now refuted by many because he was accused for bringing Arab Leaders like Libya’s Gaddafi, Yemen’s Ali Abdullah Saleh, and Syria’s Bashar al-Assad to power.
Sahabhi’s campaign slogan is "one of us" which is used to appeal to the working classes of Egypt and highlight his strong bond with the Socialist cause in Egypt.
He founded the Nasserist club in the 1970’s while he was a student at Cairo University. According to Al-Ahram he has been quoted as saying, “Egypt must remain at the core of the Arab nation. This is its identity and destiny ... the revival of Egypt is not a matter of ideology alone. We have to have a vision for revival. And my vision leans heavily on the experience of Abdel-Nasser."
For more information see notes on Fatouh.
10- Khaled Ali
An independent candidate, born in 1972, Khaled Ali is the youngest contender in the presidential race. He is a prominent lawyer and activist in Egypt. Known affectionately as an “Ani-Corruption Crusader.”
He is popular with students, activists and those supporting Egypt’s political left. His campaign slogan "We will fulfill our dream" sees him place education at the forefront of his campaign.
He vows to put an end to endemic corruption, addressing unemployment, enhancing social and economic justice, including issues like regional economic strength and protecting natural resources.
He is the former head of the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR) and co-founder of the Front for Defending Egypt's Protesters and the Hisham Mubarak Law Centre (HMLC).
In an article published by CounterPunch in 2011, they labeled him “Egypt’s best-known counselor and defender of independent unions and worker protests.”
11 - Mohamed Morsy
Born in 1951, he has a PhD in Engineering and worked as a Professor at University of Southern California in the 1980s.
A highly publicized candidate with an expensive PR campaign across Egypt. He is known by many Egyptians as the “Spare Wheel” as he officially replaced Khairat Al Shater as the official presidential representative of the Muslim Brotherhood’s, Freedom and Justice Party.
Just last week, it was found that Morsy’s propaganda campaign was Al Sharkya Governate in Upper Egypt, surrounded by his supporters, one of his convoys hit a little child while he was not in the way of the oncoming vehicles but it was just the chaos of his convoy. Even the diver of this convoy noticed he had hit the child yet continued to drive. It wasn’t until the families and the people around the child stopped the car by force and took him to the hospital, where a doctor confirmed the death. In addition to this, when the kid’s family were burying him, the activities of the propaganda campaign of Morsy didn’t stop and he continued to play music, give speeches while the family was burying their child. No apology was given by Morsy or his campaign. After the burying of her son, the mother can be heard on an interview on YouTube stating, “Even if you weren’t the one who hit my child, if you’re running for president and claiming to execute Allah’s will and follow Prophet Mohammed’s path, and you saw a child who was hit by a car on the side of the road, shouldn’t you stop and offer your help? I’m not asking for compensation. I give all my burdens to God and I ask his revenge. But the driver didn’t stop driving till we stopped him. We heard the celebrations and the speeches when I was burying my son with my own bare hands. He (Morsy) didn’t even postpone the celebrations for the death of my son.”
In addition to this, other children and people were harmed during the entering of the convoy into the Al Sharkya governate.
Most Egyptian’s feel that Morsy’s campaign wants to see him in power to execute the Muslim Brotherhood’s political agenda.
Mohamed Morsy has been officially endorsed by the ultraconservative Salafi Asala Party after presidential representative Abdullah Al-Ashaal stepped down in early April.