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The Calculus of Egypt's Presidential Race

By       Message Esam Al-Amin     Permalink
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c) Leftist and nationalist candidates: There are four candidates that belong to this group, but none are considered likely to finish among the top two contenders in the first round of the elections. The most prominent among this group is Hamdein Sabbahi, 59. He is a former journalist and is considered among the most respected Nasserite in the country. He collected more than 30,000 signatures and thus qualified as an independent candidate. Another candidate is labor union organizer and civil rights attorney Khaled Ali, 41, the youngest among all presidential candidates. He was qualified by garnering the support of 32 members of parliament. He is articulate and considered by many youth groups as the most authentic revolutionary candidate. Yet his chances are very slim because he is not well known outside the labor unions and activist circles. The two other candidates are former Judge Hisham Bastawisi and political veteran Abol-Izz Al-Hariri. They represent minor leftist groups and are also considered extremely unlikely to receive large support.

d) The remaining four candidates represent minor parties. They are virtually unknown to the public and are unlikely to receive any meaningful support.

The Presidential Elections Scenarios

The first round of the presidential race is scheduled for May 23 and 24. If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote, then a run-off between the top two contenders would take place on June 16 and 17. Most experts predict that absent massive elections' fraud sanctioned by the military and ignored by the Elections Committee, no candidate would actually receive a majority after the first round.

Since there are no reliable polls in Egypt, it is not clear what the popularity or electability of each candidate might be. Prior to the parliamentary elections, most polls were widely inaccurate. For instance, the quasi-governmental Al-Ahram sponsored poll predicted prior to the parliamentary elections last November that the FJP and the Wafd parties would each receive 30 percent of the votes, while the Noor party would receive less than 10 percent. In the end, the FJP, Noor and Wafd received 47, 25, and 10 percent respectively, a whopping difference of over 15 points from each prediction.

So what are the most likely scenarios?

Scenario 1: The top two finishers belong to the Islamist camp. In this scenario the two final contenders would be the independent Abol Fotouh and the MB candidate Mursi. In such a two-man race, the majority of Egyptians would likely vote for the independent candidate over the MB contender out of fear of concentrating all political power in the hands of a single political party.

Scenario 2: One of the top two finishers is from the Islamist candidates while the other belong to the fulool. In this scenario the fulool candidate would be Amr Mousa facing either Abol Fotouh or Mursi. In such two-man race in the second round the Islamist candidate would most likely win over Mousa, since a majority of Egyptians consider Mousa as part of Mubarak's underlings.

Scenario 3: The Elections Committee declares that top two contenders are from the fulools. This scenario is very unlikely and would only come to pass if through low voter turnout (very unlikely), while massive fraud for the benefit of Shafiq occurs undetected (also unlikely), followed by a muted electorate (extremely unlikely). As unlikely as this scenario might be, many political observers are concerned that this might be SCAF's end-game since both candidates are acceptable to the military.

Many political observers are concerned that the decision of who the next president might be is determined by the five-member Elections Committee and cannot be appealed. Critics point out that the head of the committee was an obscure judge appointed by Mubarak to oversee his son's succession. His deputy is the infamous judge that interfered in the judicial process overseeing the recent charges of illegal foreign financing of political groups and civil rights advocates, and secured the pre-trial release and flight from the country of the Americans accused in that case.  Critics charge that he is susceptible to pressure from SCAF, which in that case was under tremendous pressure from U.S. officials to free the Americans.

Scenario 4: The youth and revolutionary groups have identified six candidates that have revolutionary credentials and are acceptable to them. They are Abol Fotouh and Al-Awwa from the Islamist camp, and Sabbbahi, Ali, Bastawisi, and Al-Hariri from the secular camp. Although Mursi is not considered part of the unacceptable fulools, these groups have demanded that the MB withdraw its candidate so as not to polarize the country if the MB ends up monopolizing all positions of power.

In this scenario, several candidates favored by the revolutionary groups would withdraw in favor of a single candidate so as not to splinter the votes among them. Two or three of these candidates would run on one presidential ticket as a president with one or several vice presidents. In all the different proposals circulated by the different groups, all agree that among all the candidates Abol Fotouh would be the consensus candidate to lead this ticket. If such a presidential ticket is eventually formed and the MB candidate actually withdraws (very unlikely), then such a ticket might actually receive more than fifty percent of the vote in the first round, making Abol Fotouh the first president of post-Mubarak's Egypt.

Although in the parliamentary elections, 27 million Egyptians went to the polls, it is estimated that 35-40 million Egyptians out of the 45 million eligible voters may actually participate. But it is also difficult to predict whom the 8-13 million new voters would actually support. However, judging by the parliamentary elections, over seventy percent of Egyptians voted for an Islamist party or candidate, while twenty percent voted for a liberal or leftist candidate. Less than 3 percent actually voted for a fulool candidate.

Ultimately the real questions awaiting this process are: Would SCAF honor its pledge not to interfere in the elections and hand over power to a newly elected president? Would the new president of Egypt be the independent Abol Fotouh, thus starting a new dawn for a new Egypt? Or would it be Mursi, the MB candidate, consolidating the ascendance of power of the Brotherhood with possible political polarization in the country? Or would it be Mubarak-era loyalists Amr Mousa or even Ahmad Shafiq, thus returning Egypt back to square one, and unleashing a second revolution?

The answer to these questions by the Egyptian electorate in the next few weeks will certainly determine the future of post-revolutionary Egypt.

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Esam Al-Amin is a regular contributor for a number of websites.

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