Egypt will host multicandidate presidential elections on 23 and 24 May 2012. These elections come 15 months after the downfall of former President Hosni Mubarak who ruled this Middle Eastern country with an iron fist for 30 years. Because this event will see Egyptians heading to the polls for the first time in history, it becomes markedly difficult to predict just who will lead Egypt post the Arab uprising given a lack of precedence. Nevertheless, out of 13 candidates, many claim that it remains a four-man race.
- Amr Moussa: Arab League Secretary General from 2001 – 2011, who before that was Minister of Foreign Affairs under Mubarak for ten years. Despite this association, he has actively sought to distance himself from the old regime. He supports the notion of a free economy coupled with social justice as well as the Arab peace initiative that recognizes the state of Israel. At 75 years of age, he is the oldest candidate in the upcoming elections.
- Ahmed Shafiq: Egypt’s last Prime Minister under Mubarak. He only served for one month until he resigned on 3 March 2011, however. He was initially barred from running in the elections, but following an appeal, he has recently been reinstated. Prior to his post as Prime Minister, he was the Minister of Civil Aviation, thus boosting his candidacy, as he remains the only front-runner with recent administrative experience.
- Abdul Moneim Aboul Fotouh: a former Muslim Brotherhood member who was suspended from the group after he announced his intention to run for president in 2011. He maintains that he is a liberal Islamist, even though he has received widespread support from ultraconservatives in the state.
- Mohammed Mursi: leader of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party. He was originally the party’s backup candidate until Khairat al-Shater was barred from running in mid-April 2012.
All four candidates enjoy widespread support in Egypt. On the one hand, if the recent parliamentary elections are anything to go by, it would seem that the country is ready for its first Islamist president. In this regard, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party won the largest number of seats in the November polls, winning 47,2 percent of the vote, followed by the conservative Salafist Nour Party with 24,3 percent.
Religious parties therefore dominate more than two-thirds of the legislature thus boosting the campaigns of both Foutah and Mursi. It should be noted that Foutah remains the stronger candidate out of the two as many perceive him as a good stepping stone to the transformation of Egypt from a purely secular state to one governed by Sharia law.
Not all Egyptians support an Islamist presidency, however, as many fear that if religious parties take office, the interests of women and minority groups would be forfeited. These fears are widespread and form the basis of support for the secular candidates. The administrative experience of both Moussa and Shafiq further raises the credibility of their campaigns.
According to various opinion polls, these secular candidates are more popular than their religious counterparts. Moreover, Moussa and Shafiq appear to be neck-and-neck in the race, where Moussa has support from the youth given his disassociation with Mubarak whilst Shafiq has the military’s support given his former post as Minister of Civil Aviation.
These polls have also indicated, however, that over a third of voters are undecided. With so many Egyptians on the fence, an outcome remains impossible to predict.
For the time being, immediate concerns surrounding the elections pertain not necessarily to violence but rather to suspicions of electoral fraud. Because executive power is currently in the hands of the military through the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), the very success of these elections hinges on the SCAF’s commitment to hand over power to the winner by 1 July 2012.