There are currently 20 candidates running for Egypt’s presidency. Most are not
serious, but can split the vote for various blocs. I think the winner will be
radical nationalist Amr Moussa, which isn’t great but better than an Islamist
Moussa, former Egyptian foreign minister and former
secretary-general of the Arab League, has far more name recognition than any
opponent. As a veteran of the old regime, he has the votes of Mubarak
supporters. As a radical nationalist, he appeals to many Egyptians.
not an Islamist in any way, which will appeal to the majority of Egyptians, who
don’t want the Muslim Brotherhood to rule. And he knows how to be a
The 20 candidates include two women, a Christian, two retired
generals, and a couple of journalists. But there are no Islamists (or at least
no Muslim Brotherhood representatives) among them. The Brotherhood won’t run a
candidate, and so will have to decide who to vote for.
There is only one
other candidate from the old establishment, so that vote – perhaps one-quarter
of the electorate? – will go to Moussa.
But there are five leftists and
six liberals who will split those two blocs. The following are all running:
Abdallah al-Ash’al, pan-Arab nationalist; Hamadein Sabahi, Al- Karama (Dignity)
party; Hussein Abd al-Razeq, neo- Communist Al-Taggam’u Party; Magdi Hussein,
Al- ’Amal Party; and Sameh ‘Ashour, Nasserist Party.
several of these people – notably al-Ash’al and Hussein – get along nicely with
How can Marxists, radical nationalists and Islamists all
work together? Well, that’s Egyptian politics.
Yet that’s not the key
problem. Remember those young, pro-democratic Facebook liberals who supposedly
were going to rule Egypt? Well, they’re all running against each other, thus
splitting an already small voting bloc into a microscopic one. The six rivals
are: • Mohamed ElBaradei, who is more popular and far better- known with Western
journalists than with Egyptians.
• Hisham Al-Bastawisi, a judge who was
one of the first to come out against Mubarak.
• Ayman Nour, al-Ghad
(Tomorrow) Party, who ran against Mubarak in the previous election and spent
four years in prison.
• Midhat Khafaji, deputy head of the al-Ghad party,
who is running against Nour, the party’s leader.
• Buthaina Kamel, a TV
host from the Kefaya movement – another early anti-Mubarak group.
Wissam Abd al-Gawwad, a teacher who founded the Egyptians for Change association
and the al-Nahhar party.
While only the first four are more important,
that’s still a pretty big field. Remember also that when it comes time to
assemble lists for the parliamentary election, such splits will be even more
Here are the two interesting questions: • Who will the
Brotherhood back with its 20-30% base? It was supporting ElBaradei (yes,
Islamists backing a liberal, because he isn’t so liberal), but have quarreled
with him lately.
• Will Moussa organize his own party which, if
successful, could come in first in the parliamentary election? But one thing
isn’t in much doubt: President Amr Moussa sounds likely.
ALI GOMAA, grand
mufti of Egypt, writes in the New York Times: “Egypt’s religious tradition is
anchored in a moderate, tolerant view of Islam. We believe that Islamic law
guarantees freedom of conscience and expression (within the bounds of common
decency), and equal rights for women. And as head of Egypt’s agency of Islamic
jurisprudence, I can assure you that the religious establishment is committed to
the belief that government must be based on popular sovereignty.”
without getting into things like clerics endorsing suicide bombings, here’s what
they don’t tell you: Gomaa is a Mubarak appointee. The Muslim Brotherhood is
already demanding his resignation.
Either he will quit, be forced out, or
be replaced by someone whose view of Islam is closer to that of the
And who doesn’t believe Islamic law guarantees freedom of
conscience and expression, or equal rights for women.
And note that last
phrase. He’s saying, after supporting the Mubarak dictatorship for decades, that
he now supports democracy. But if government is based on popular sovereignty,
doesn’t that mean the grand mufti should reflect prevailing views of Islam,
which includes – according to reliable polls – overwhelming support for Koranic
amputation and stoning punishments, the killing of anyone who converts to
another religion, and other things that seem neither moderate nor tolerant? The
entire religious establishment in Egypt has been organized to fight Islamism and
the Muslim Brotherhood – a group that will probably control about one-third of
parliament. And many Egyptians who don’t like the Brotherhood will also see
Gomaa as a remnant of the dictatorship they want to eliminate.
mosques must be government approved; mosque leaders are controlled by the
government; religious education is controlled by the government; the head of the
al-Azhar mosque/university and the grand mufti (Gomaa) are appointed by the
government; clerics are allotted television time and media space by the
Guess what? There’s a new government and thus a “new”
Incidentally, the Brotherhood is now calling for a Saudistyle
morality police with powers of arrest. Is that the moderate, tolerant style
Gomaa is advocating? Three points many are missing: 1. Many who don’t like the
Brotherhood want even stricter social controls. Will the revolution ultimately
bring Egyptians more freedom or less? 2. The Brotherhood will be a political
power, and other parties will make deals with it in which they give the
Brotherhood what it wants on religious-related, social matters, and even
foreign-policy issues, in exchange for Brotherhood support for their own
3. Beyond the Brotherhood there are radical violent Islamists
who will carry out terror attacks against uppity women, secularists, Christians
and Israeli or Western targets.
Many of them were radicalized by being in
the Brotherhood. With the Brotherhood legalized and growing, there will be many
more such people. The government will not crack down on their base-building and
propaganda. How tough will it be on their terrorism? Many things to
The writer is director of the Global Research in
International Affairs Center (www.gloria-center.org) and editor of Middle East
Review of International Affairs Journal and Turkish Studies. He blogs at