CAIRO: Walking down the streets of Egypt on Wednesday, you could hear everywhere people excitingly talking about “Morsi,” “Moussa,” “Shafick,” “Sabahi,” or “Aboul Fotouh,” a scene that no one could have ever imagined a year and half ago as the regime was busy rigging the parliamentary elections in 2010.
As millions of Egyptians cast their ballots at thousands of polling stations for the candidate whom they think will save their country, there is no clear indication on who that candidate will be. Various opinion polls have been conducted, yielding widely different results, yet most Egyptians have been suspicious of these polls, as they are not scientific.
Recently conducted opinion polls have shown that while the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate Mohamed Morsi, former Arab League Secretary General and former Egyptian foreign Minister Amr Moussa, former member of the Brotherhood Abdul Moneim Aboul Fotouh, and former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafick are front-runners, there is no clear indications of what chances they stand to lead Egypt.
One of the three top contenders is leading Islamist figure Mohamed Morsi, 60, an engineer educated in American schools who vows to stand for women, poverty, and democracy if he is to become the Egyptian president. In recent statements, Morsi has been appealing to a broad audience, stressing the importance of re-introducing Islam. Morsi’s open endorsements of Islam have created fear amongst Egypt’s liberals that he might introduce a fundamentalist Islamic theory as he comes from the conservative wing of the brotherhood.
"There is no such thing called an Islamic democracy. There is democracy only. ... The people are the source of authority," Morsi told Christine Amanpour in an interview conducted earlier in May.
Morsi has spent time in jail under the former regime on several occasions for voicing his opposition to Mubarak.
Meanwhile, Amr Moussa is a leading Arab politician who has political experience and knows more than the other candidates. “He has good relations with Arab and foreign countries so he would know best how to deal with them at this stage in Egypt,” a his supporters say.
Moussa, 75, has spent the past few months not only promoting himself, but also trying to reassure Egyptians that voting for him is not betraying the revolution. He has been sending messages to Egyptians that electing him will heal the state during this period. “I only seek one term,” Moussa said. He has also pledged to boost public spending to lower the high unemployment rate.
He graduated from Cairo University with a law degree in 1957 and joined Egypt's foreign ministry the following year. During his diplomatic career, he served as Egypt's ambassador to the United Nations before president Mubarak named him foreign minister in 1991. During his tenure as foreign minister, he gained popularity, and even inspired a popular song by Shaaban Abdul Rehem with the line, “I hate Israel, but I love Amr Moussa.” Many Egyptians suspected this could have been the reason he was appointed to the Arab League, because he was becoming so popular with the people that Mubarak wanted to sideline him in a post of lesser significance.
The third contender is Abdel-Moneim Aboul-Fotouh, 60, who was expelled from the Muslim Brotherhood after announcing last year that he planned to run for office, defying a decision by the group’s leadership at that time.
After the expulsion of three major candidates from the presidential race in early May, Abdel Moneim Abouel Fotouh has found himself as one of the leading contenders, due to his crossover platform that could possibly attract voters from different backgrounds.
A physician by training, his campaign indeed attracted broad support from liberal activists and Islamists alike, including the unexpected backing of an ultraconservative Salafi group after their candidate was expelled over his mother’s dual nationality.
During the Mubarak era, Aboul-Fotouh served prison terms, and he widely supported last year’s uprising. Back in 2007, he defied the Brotherhood’s official line by backing the right of women and Egypt’s minority Coptic Christians to compete for the presidency.
Despite the fact that former President Hosni Mubarak was toppled by pressure from the people, no one has risen from the revolution’s epicenter, Tahrir Square. Young zealous Egyptians who fought for their country’s socio-political change have seen their revolution come and gone which makes them back candidates like Hamdeen Sabahy or Khaled Ali, who have a long history of conflict with the former regime, even though these candidates are not the product of the revolution.