Egypt Presidential Elections: Meet The 13 Final Candidates

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on April 26 2012 12:52 PM
Egypt
People cheer during a speech by Egyptian presidential candidate and former Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa at a rally on the outskirts of Cairo on April 18. Despite the suspension, legal experts have said they are confident the election will go ahead as planned and candidates have continued to campaign and prepare for the first televised debate on Thursday night. Reuters

The final list of Egyptian presidential candidates was announced on Thursday, and 13 men will contend in the first free presidential election in the country in decades.

After a somewhat calamitous process that saw the disqualification of six top candidates, the Supreme Presidential Elections Committee put out the final list of contenders, according to Egyptian daily Ahram. The list will not change before the May 23-24 vote.

Although the candidates cover the extremely broad spectrum of contemporary Egyptian politics, there were few surprises, save the reinstatement of Ahmed Shafiq, a minister during the era of deposed President Hosni Mubarak. Shafiq was banned from the election earlier under the new Corrupting of Political Life Law, which disqualifies high-ranking members of the ex-president's regime. However, Shafiq appealed and got the ruling overturned.

After listening to Shafiq's appeal, the committee decided to halt the decision to exclude him from the presidential race, Farouk Sultan, the head of the election committee, said at a news conference on Thursday.

Although the original ban was approved by the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, or SCAF, the popular Shafiq is seen by many as the military's top choice. The SCAF has been accused of trying to influence the elections to remain in power, and Shafiq, who was once the commander of the Egyptian Air Force, is notably the only candidate with a military background. He was also the last prime minister of Egypt appointed by Mubarak, serving for the final 33 days of the former regime.

Shafiq's experience, both in the military and in Mubarak's government, make him one of the leading candidates in an Egypt where more and more people are looking for some sort of political stability. While thousands gathered in Cairo on April 20 to defend the revolution from the SCAF and from candidates like Shafiq, there is a growing number of Egyptians, especially in rural areas, who are looking to return to the security of pre-revolution Egypt, according to Joshua Stacher, an expert on Middle Eastern politics at Kent State University.

Other leading candidates were banned from the race this month, including the Salafist Hazem Salah Abu Ismail, who was disqualified because his mother had an American passport; the Muslim Brotherhood's Khairat el-Shater, who was banned due to a recent prison sentence; Mubarak's intelligence chief and vice president Omar Suleiman; and Ghad Al-Thawra Party leader Ayman Nour and lawyer Mortada Mansour over recent legal troubles.

Campaigning by the final slate of candidates will formally begin on Monday, although many have been doing so informally for months.

The first round of the election will begin May 23 and end the following day. If needed, a runoff vote is scheduled for June 16-17. Egypt's new president will be named on June 21.

The Front-runners:

Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh: An important revolutionary figure, Aboul Fotouh is a former leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. However, he is not the Brotherhood's candidate and is running as an independent. Like his former associates, Aboul Fotouh is an Islamist, but he is considered much more socially progressive than the Brotherhood, which some credit as the reason for his expulsion from the party last May.

[Should I win the presidential election], I could appoint a woman or a Copt [Christian] as vice president based on competence, and not for propaganda purposes, he said in a speech.

Amr Moussa: Along with Ahmed Shafiq, who is also a front-runner, Amr Moussa is one of two ex-Mubarak ministers in the race. A former foreign minister under Mubarak, Moussa, 75, is best known for his role as the former secretary-general of the Arab League. He has also worked as an ambassador to countries such as the U.S. and Switzerland.

Moussa is fairly liberal, especially compared with the Salafist parties, and he could take a high percentage of the minority votes, especially from Egypt's 8 million Coptic Christians.

Mohammed Morsi: After el-Shater was disqualified, the Brotherhood -- or, more accurately, its Freedom and Justice Party -- elevated Morsi to be its candidate. He is less qualified and less well known than is el-Shater, but with the powerful and popular Brotherhood behind him he is nonetheless a formidable candidate.

Hamdeen Sabbahi: A former member of parliament, Sabbahi is the leader of the Dignity Party. The long-time Nasserist -- a journalist and poet -- advocates cutting ties to the U.S. and Israel.

The Underdogs:

Abul-Ezz El-Hariri: Hariri founded the Socialist Popular Alliance Party after the revolution and is a strong critic of the SCAF. He spent years in Egypt's parliament and is seen as a force against corruption, according to Ahram. However, his success could be hampered by the presence of a number of other leftist candidates.

Khaled Ali: One of those other leftists is Ali, who is representing the Revolutionary Socialists. He is a lawyer and the founder of the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights. He has fought battles around the minimum wage for public-sector workers and immigration. His nickname is the common man.

Mohammad Salim Al-Awa: A prominent and well-published Islamic thinker, Al-Awa is sympathetic toward both the SCAF and the Muslim Brotherhood, but a supporter of neither. He is seen as a moderate Islamist, and his goal is to create a modern Islamic government. However, he does not look favorably toward Egypt's Coptic minority, although he's trying to mend that image.

Hisham El-Bastawisi: A prominent anti-Mubarak judge, El-Bastawisi helped reform the judiciary and is popular among liberals. He has been endorsed by the left-wing Tagammu Party, but lacks the funding of other candidates.

Hossam Khairallah: Khairallah fought for Egypt in the Yemeni war in the 1960s and in the Israeli war in 1973. He left the military 35 years ago and joined the General Intelligence Directorate, Egypt's intelligence agency, where he served with Suleiman. His main priorities are as diverse as Egypt's economy, its relationship with Israel in Sinai, and environmental protection.

Mohamed Fawzy: Fawzy has a law degree and is an ex-police officer. He gained political experience while serving as the head of the council in the city of Salamout.

Mahmoud Hossam: He is representing the Egypt Arab Socialist Party, a very small new party that advocates Arab nationalism and Islamic socialism, an idea often connected to Moammar Gadhafi in Libya. Despite that unfortunate association, Hossam's party also champions freedom of religion and expression, as well as the liberation of Palestine.

Abdullah El-Ashaal: He is the author of 66 books covering topics such as politics, law, and religion. El-Ashaal spent 40 years in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but resigned in protest of irregularities compromising the proper interests of Egypt, according to his Facebook page. He also espouses views of pan-Arabism.

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