Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Egypt's Presidential Election Another Big Test

In the article below, Michael Jensen sheds light on the three main Egyptian presidential candidates, and ten other presidential candidates who are running the May 23/24 Presidential Election. The three main presidential candidates are:

Amr Moussa who has strong ties to the old "Mubarak" regime.

Muhammad Morsi who is a representative of the Muslim Brotherhood (which currently holds a majority of the Egyptian parliament).

Abul Fattouh who is an independent Muslim fundamentalist.

It should be noted that the Muslim's Brotherhood's preferred candidate, Khairat el-Shater, was disqualified due to serving prison time for raising funds for the Muslim Brotherhood during Mubarak’s reign. Mubarak banned all religious political parties.

The presidential election appears to come down the Mubaraks's old guard versus the reemerging Islamic parties. The Mubarak regime and its systematic corruption and violation of political and human rights are evidence that secular governments are not necessarily more in the people's interests than religious governments.

Some crucial questions in this presidential election are whether or not the Egyptian military establishment will honor the election results, whether or not, Mubarak's old guard will tamper with the election count to ensure their victory, and what form will the new Egyptian Constitution take. The Egyptian president and the executive government (under the Mubarak Egyptian Constitution) holds considerable political power. However, that could change under the new Egyptian Constitution: Egyptian Presidential Powers 

The article below makes a questionable assumption that the Egyptian Spring was lead solely by liberal, secular youth. The Egyptian protests included a number of religious persons as illustrated by the thousands protesters who participated in the Muslim prayer ceremonies.

Race for Egypt’s presidency intensifies

Michael Jansen, May 1, 2012:

Divisions within the secular and fundamentalist camps exacerbate the unpredictability.

Before the campaign even began, the Egyptian presidential election became a three horse race. The chief contestants are the former head of the Arab League Amr Moussa, the chief of the Muslim Brotherhood’s political arm, Muhammad Morsi, and Abu Moneim Abul Fattouh, an independent fundamentalist.

It is a bitter irony for the liberal, secular youth who mounted the popular uprising which drove from power Egypt’s president for 30 years, Hosni Mubarak, that none of the top candidates represents them. Of the three Abul Fattouh, a senior liberal member of the Brotherhood expelled for declaring his candidacy, most closely reflects their concerns. Many say Amr Moussa, who served as Mubarak’s foreign minister before moving to the League post, is too close to the old regime while Morsi, a conservative Brotherhood figure, is too intimately tied to the religious right.

Moussa, a secular liberal, enjoys the advantages of face and name recognition and a certain amount of popularity due to his Arab League record of standing up for the Palestinians at a time Egypt was trying to normalise relations with Israel. A veteran member of his country’s diplomatic corps, he served as ambassador to India, UN and Switzerland. In 2000 a song entitled, “I hate Israel” with the refrain, “I love Amr Moussa,” became widely popular in Egypt. It was seen as a challenge to the Mubarak regime and its pro-Western, pro-Israel policies.

For the presidential campaign a new song, “I love Amr Moussa,” is being performed by a pop star. The song elicits resonance with the earlier hit, reminding Egyptian voters that Moussa was not a supine servant of the ousted regime, particularly on the issue of relations with Israel which many Egyptians want to see downgraded or cut.

Attracting support

Abul Fattouh, a medical doctor who backs Egypt’s present “civil” state polity, also enjoys widespread recognition. He broke with the senior Brotherhood leadership by taking an active part in the uprising from its outset.

During last year’s uprising the Arab Medical Union, headed by Abul Fattouh, established field clinics in Tahrir Square to treat wounded demonstrators. He has attracted the support of many young fundamentalists who reject the efforts of religious conservatives to impose their views and practices on the society.

Paradoxically, he received the endorsement of the ultra-orthodox Noor party which holds 20 per cent of the seats in parliament. Like Moussa, he has a campaign song which praises him as a moderate who will protect the country and retore the rights of the people.

Morsi, a professor of engineering, has the disadvantage of being the Brotherhood’s alternate candidate as he was put forward to stand in for the movement’s first choice, Khairat el-Shater, a charismatic multi-millionaire disqualified due to serving prison time for raising funds for the Brotherhood, banned during Mubarak’s reign.

Morsi is chairman of the movement’s Freedom and Justice Party, which won nearly half the seats in the lower house of parliament in last year’s election. He does not have a song because conservatives disapprove of pop songs, in particular, and music, in general.

The other ten candidates, who are regarded as no-hopes, include a controversial Muslim scholar, a respected judge and reformer, a veteran Arab nationalist (Nasserite), a socialist and labour activist, and Mubarak’s last prime minister. The youngest candidate is Khaled Ali, 40, a human rights lawyer who embodies the ideals of the revolutionaries. While they cannot win, these candidates will take away votes during the first round on May 23rd-24th from the three chief contenders, making it difficult to predict the outcome. The second round has been scheduled for June 16th-17th.

Divisions within the secular and fundamentalist camps exacerbate the unpredictability. The split in the secular camp between those who insist on a candidate without a religious background, Moussa, and those prepared to accept Abul Fattouh could deprive both of votes. The rift between the Brotherhood and the Salafis deepened when the Salafi Noor party endorsed Abul Fattouh.

A third unpredictable element is the military which has ruled Egypt since mounting a coup against Mubarak on February 11th, 2011. The generals have pledged to hand over power to the winner by the end of June but many Egyptians believe that they could condition the transfer on granting the military high command a permanent role in Egypt’s political life as well as control over the armed forces’ huge commercial empire and the military budget.

Since Egypt does not yet have a post-Mubarak constitution, the commission tasked with drafting the document has been dismissed and a new commission has still to be appointed, the military might try to renege on its commitment to effect the transfer on time.

Whatever happens could decide whether Egypt remains a “civil” (secular) state or whether it emerges from the “revolution” firmly under the sway of fundamentalists who seek to transform the country into an “Islamic” state.

2011 FDA Global Electoral Fairness Report on Egypt (under Mubarak) 

1 comment:

Thank you for sharing your perspective.