After quite the build up, and biding our time with the 'funniest' Egyptian potential candidates for President, here's the real deal, with the top ten, big guns, in the presidential race, 2012. Ten serious contenders for the title of Mr. Presidient of Egypt, as the electoral commission approves the final presidential candidates.
Still, it's not over til the 'fat lady sings' or in this case, the forces that be who sit on the electoral commission. Just yesterday, ten from Egypt's 23 presidential candidates were barred from running in the polls. Four men from our serious ten will be appealing this decision (see slides): Omar Suleiman, Hazem Abu-Ismail, Ayman Nour, and Muhamad Khairat el-Shater.
The world, alongside Egypt, has been watching the presidential election countdown closely, savoring the drama that we are used to seeing in US electoral races. The registration window for the country's first post-Mubarak presidential elections -- set to take plae on 23 and 24 May -- closed Sunday, 8th April, leaving us with a healthy offering of 23 contenders for a country that has not seen real electoral competition for over 50 years. In, the past who won was a foregone conclusion. Today, it's an open race. The weekend passed not without last minute surprises that had the nation gasping, some less than impressed the surprise entries. The days since the closing of submissions have still seen twists and turns, new entries as well as disqualifications and as eligibility is debated and US or Syrian nationality aspersions are cast aside.(see slides)
The ingredients and flavor to the contest
It's set to be a race of Ex VPs going head to head: The Deputy Chief (or guide) of the Muslim Brotherhood against Omar Suleiman who played VP for the final days of the regime. Some have categorized it facetiously as the race of the 'has-beens' and beards, breaking it down into the following categories: Moderate Islamists, Feloul (former regime), Liberals (or new revolution forces), SCAF (or militarily endowed), Former Brotherhood (Ikhwan) and Salafis. There's no shortage of former jail-birds in amongst the list.
High drama of surprise and betrayal
In a sudden move, ousted president Hosni Mubarak’s intelligence chief Omar Suleiman signed up for the draw, taking his position at the starting line, and with his standing, leaving some feeling more than a touch betrayed by the efforts to move forward with the revolution against the old tide. Who is supporting Suleiman? People in the public and financial sectors who have suffered financial insecurity and decline, if not ruin, since Mubarak's defeat are behind the man the opposing camp is calling 'silly man'. The public reception has been strongly in his favor to match the doubt and disappointment felt, as Egypt seeks a strong and capable, experienced politician who they believe can restore Egypt. Some anticipate a possible win - allegedly Israel's favorite for power too.
The Brotherhood is pegged a favorite for the race as for the parliament. What's more, the Muslim Brotherhood, who had til now always maintained that they would not put forward a presidential candidate suddenly submitted two of its leaders, nominally in their name, though technically running independently: Khairat El-Shater and Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh.
Many are former prisoners of the regimes past, running in the new free Egypt. Khairat el Shater -6 times imprisoned from Gamal Abdel Nasser's time through to Mubarak's time - was not freed until after Mubarak's ouster.
Salafi candidate Hazem Salah Abu-Ismail has only just been able to confirm his eligibility to run due to his mother’s questionable American nationality.
An Air of Suspense, Surprise and Speculation
These last minute maneuvers have fuelled a mood of speculation and intrigue on the streets of Cairo. Have deals been brokered between the (temporary ruling) Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) and the Muslim Brotherhood? Are there alliances between SCAF and the old regime entries? The feeling is that something is afoot, or being hatched behind the scenes. Some, hungry for real change and transparency in the way these elections are conducted, feel a sense of betrayal of the revolutions giddy promises. Others hope, against these last minute stunts, that the elections will be democratic and fair.
In all events, the electoral commission promises us a new president by 21st June, 2012 to officially take the reigns from SCAF and back into the civilian plains.
What do the people want?
The people of Egypt have many common concerns. They want to re-establish security after turbulent transitional times. Some are convinced that the way forward is to to look backward to the competency of old-school politicians. They are anxious about their foreign standing. They want their country to prosper while keeping foreign elements out, and balancing strong relations with the Arab world and beyond. Some want strong Islamic rule, and care to keep their women folk veiled, while others don't much care which way security and progress is established - through Islamic rule or secular, so long as they see strides in health, education and economic growth and bridging the gap between rich and poor in the coming years. Never mind the dress code! Some just want an alternative to what passed before, and to them that comes under the cloak of Islam. Some want to know about the next leader's agenda for Palestine, others prefer to focus on domestic affairs.
Egyptians predict a riot
There is a genuine worry that the country's needs and demands will not be quelled by any of the candidates availabe, and some fear protests even larger than what has passed before.
A prudent choice for some is the man Amro Moussa, as he seems to be a competent albeit old-school politician while a nightmare choice for still others is Ahmed Shafik who admires Mubarak's "tenderness and discipline" in balance. People fear taking the plunge and risking Egypt in the hands of the new revolution liberals, like Khaled Ali, who lack the political experience of a trusty record behind them at a time when Egypt needs restored order fast, and a man who can hit the ground running. Still, it is precisely those without a track record or association with the old politics, that have gained traction with the younger voters and Twitterati.
Have your comment
Who's your vote with? Who has a good chance of taking all of the sprawling population of Egypt forward? Will it be an old regime man, a military type, a new Islamist or secular guy? All bets are on!