13 battle for Egyptian presidency, 3 stand out

Egypt has transformed into a heated battleground for the candidates vying for the country’s first vacant presidential throne in over three decades.

By ELIEZER SHERMAN, JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT
May 22, 2012 03:42
2 minute read.
Women in Egypt [illustrative]

Veiled women in Egypt 370. (photo credit: Amr Dalsh / Reuters)

 
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CAIRO – Hamdeen Sabahy, the longtime opposition activist who has become the dark horse in Egypt’s upcoming presidential elections, has become the most ubiquitous face in Cairo.

With elections slated for this Wednesday and Thursday, Egypt and the Arab world’s largest city has transformed into a heated battleground for the 13 candidates vying for the country’s first vacant presidential throne in over three decades.

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Still, from the 22-kilometer stretch of Cairean highway that runs from the Egyptian international airport to downtown Cairo, the pulsating heart of the city where mass protests drove former dogged president Hosni Mubarak from power, three faces gleam more than any others.

The most prevalent of the three is that of leftist-Nasserist candidate Sabahy, whose posters with the slogan “One of Us” hang from utility poles and lampposts lining the ring road that circumvents the city, and are plastered on walls and hug trees providing shade in Cairo’s downtown neighborhoods.

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Second to Sabahy, placards and larger banners of the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate, Mohamed Mursi, hang above Cairo’s stuffed causeways and crosstown tunnels. Underneath an endearing photograph of the 60- year-old candidate’s face, his slogan reads “Renaissance comes through the will of the people.” Mursi’s previous slogan, “An Egyptian renaissance with an Islamic point of reference,” came under fire by the Supreme Presidential Elections Commission, Egypt’s official electoral body – which banned the use of religious mottos.

Mursi led Egypt’s expatriate vote this past week, AFP reported, garnering nearly half of the votes that have already been counted.

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The fact that he often falls in third place or lower in a number of Egyptian polls – such as the most recent survey by the Al-Ahram daily, where he landed in third place with only 15 percent of votes – may point to the unreliability of such polls in a country where ordinary citizens fear revealing political predilections.

Or perhaps it indicates something about the political nature of the Egyptians that have chosen to live and work outside their home country. The largest such group, at 1.5 million people, lives in Saudi Arabia.

The third candidate whose face noticeably lines Cairo’s Autostrad road is that of Mubarak’s former prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq, who was disqualified and then requalified for the race by the official electoral commission.

Shafiq is seen as popular with Egyptians that prefer a member of the old guard, one with military experience, who can put an end to what many see as a year of chaos resulting from a largely disbanded police force, and a military being pushed to its limit maintaining order in some of the country’s more lawless corners.

In addition to those three, an unusual caricature from Cairo’s three-week campaign season marked the city’s walls in more than one location: that of Omar Suleiman, a former presidential candidate whose campaign lasted for only a number of days.

Suleiman, a former Egyptian spy chief, was disqualified from the race over a lack of necessary signatures for his entry.

His face, stenciled in black onto the walls of a number of tunnels, was marked by a one-word slogan: President.

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