A little over a month has passed since the presidential election officially began in Egypt. Since then, over a thousand individuals have declared their intent to run for president, yet only a few stand out as serious contenders. Below are four of the current front-runners, one of whom is likely to be the next president of Egypt:
Career diplomat Amr Moussa is the leading secular candidate. Moussa served as Minister of Foreign Affairs during the Mubarak regime before being named Secretary General of the Arab League; he has also served as Egypt's Ambassador to the UN, India, and Switzerland. An experienced politician, Moussa is often intentionally vague and takes a public stance on issues only after carefully assessing public opinion. Although many are skeptical of Moussa's ties to the Mubarak administration, his campaign has broad appeal due to his extensive political experience – which many in the field lack – and focus on the economy, education, and social justice. Many secular Egyptians see him as an acceptable consensus candidate and the only viable alternative to an Islamist victory.
Abdel Moneim Abul-Fotouh:
Abul-Fotouh is the most liberal of the leading Islamist candidates. As a key member of the Muslim Brotherhood, he pushed for reform within the organization until being expelled last year for defying the Brotherhood's decision not to field a presidential candidate and entering the race himself. His rivalry with candidate Khairat Al-Shater, in particular, is representative of some of the fissures within the Brotherhood: Despite his break with the leadership, Abul-Fotouh has drawn the support of many Muslim Brotherhood youth. Abul-Fotouh is known for his support of gender and religious equality, and his candidacy is popular among the more socially liberal subset of Islamist voters.
Sheikh Hazem Salah Abu-Ismail:
Sheikh Abu-Ismail is a Salafist scholar and the most conservative of the three leading Islamist candidates; he has stated his support for the gradual implementation of Sharia in Egypt. Abu-Ismail is extremely popular – his official registration as a candidate was augmented by parades and human chains of supporters – and he draws followers primarily from Egypt's ultraconservative Salafist movement, many of whom believe competitors Abul-Fotouh and Al-Shater to be too liberal.
The official pick of the Muslim Brotherhood, Al-Shater's candidacy has shaken up the Egyptian presidential race. Al-Shater resigned from his post as deputy chairman of the Muslim Brotherhood to campaign for president; within the Brotherhood, his politics are generally considered moderate and pragmatic, and he is known as “the engineer” for his deciding role in policy. Al-Shater will likely be competing for votes with Abul-Fotouh and Abu-Ismail, but the political and financial backing of the Brotherhood provide him with a significant starting advantage.
Others to watch: The dynamics of the race could change considerably in the several days remaining before nominations close on April 8. In addition to the six other individuals already nominated*, key figures to keep and eye on in the next few days include former intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, former Civil Aviation Minister (and, briefly, Prime Minister) Ahmed Shafiq, and self-styled moderate Islamist scholar Selim Al-Awa. Keep up to date as the race unfolds by following Egypt Elects at www.egyptelectsblog.com or on Twitter (@egypt_elects).
*Abul-Ezz El-Hariri (Popular Socialist Alliance Party), Hossam Khairallah (Democratic Peace Party), Ahmed Mohamed Awad Ali (Egypt National Party), Mohamed Fawzi Eissa (Generation Democratic Party), Hisham El-Bastawisi (Tagammu Party), & Mahmoud Hossameddin Galal.