May 11, 2012 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 833

The Egyptian Presidential Candidates

May 11, 2012 | By L. Lavi*
Egypt | Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 833


On May 23, 2012, Egypt will hold its first presidential election since its January 25, 2011 revolution. The list of candidates has undergone many changes over the past few months. The Muslim Brotherhood (MB) decided to nominate a candidate, even though, during the first year after the revolution, it repeatedly promised not to do so, in an attempt to alleviate public fear of a MB takeover of the country. According to MB officials, the considerations that motivated the movement to nominate a candidate were: first, the need to block the rise of former Mubarak associates who have decided to run for president, chiefly Omar Suleiman, former head of the General Intelligence Directorate and Mubarak's deputy during his final days of rule, who sparks fears of a return of the ousted regime; second, the MB-led parliament remaining powerless after the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) refused its demand to fire the Al-Ganzouri government and replace it with an MB-led government; and third, the MB's feeling that its power is curtailed, after public objection to its dominance of the constitution-drafting committee led to the dismantling of this committee by court order.[1]

Initially, the MB's chosen candidate was General Guide deputy Khairat Al-Shater. He appeared to be the leading candidate in the presidential race, his chief opponents being Omar Suleiman and the extreme Islamist candidate and Salafi favorite Hazem Abu Isma'il. However, after the candidacies were submitted, the higher election committee disqualified 10 of the 23 candidates, including all three leading candidates, on the grounds that they did not meet the legal criteria. Al-Shater was disqualified because not enough time had passed since he was pardoned and released from prison; Suleiman was disqualified because he fell short by some 300 supporter signatures in one of the provinces; and Abu Isma'il was disqualified because his late mother was a U.S. citizen, even though an Egypt court had determined several days previously that his mother had held only Egyptian citizenship.[2] The leader of the secular-liberal Ghad Al-Thawra party, Dr. Ayman Nour, was also disqualified because not enough time had passed since his imprisonment for fraud in the 2005 presidential elections, in which he ran against Mubarak.[3]

Following the passage of the law that revoked the political rights of dozens of former officials in the Mubarak regime, including the right to run for president, the election committee also disqualified Ahmad Shafiq, who served as Egypt's prime minister during and shortly after the anti-Mubarak protests.[4] However, the election committee surprisingly accepted Shafiq's appeal, in which he questioned the legitimacy of the law revoking political rights and its application to him.[5] Thus, most of the candidates who made waves in Egypt were gone from the race, leaving the 13 less controversial figures, the leading candidates among them being former MB official Dr. 'Abd Al-Mun'im Abu Al-Futouh, who was ousted from the MB for deciding to run for president during the time when the movement promised not to run a candidate, and the secular candidate, 'Amr Moussa, former Arab League secretary-general and foreign minister in Mubarak's time.

Within the Islamic camp, Abu Al-Futouh is competing with the new MB candidate, Dr. Muhammad Mursi, who heads the MB party in the Egyptian parliament; Dr. Muhammad Salim Al-'Awa, an Islamic lawyer and intellectual who served as secretary-general for the International Union of Muslim Scholars; and Dr. 'Abdallah Al-Ash'al, who is close to the MB, but is a candidate for the Salafi party Al-Asala.

In the secular camp, Moussa is competing with former members of Mubarak's security forces, chiefly Ahmad Shafiq, and with candidates representing the left wing and Nasserist streams, led by Hamdeen Sabahi, who was an opponent of Mubarak.

All the candidates speak in the name of the revolution and of the need to realize its goals, institute social justice, fight corruption, unemployment and poverty, and restore Egypt's leading role.

Abu Al-Futouh has several advantages over his opponents in both camps. His image is one of honesty and idealism, and he is associated with the moderate school in the MB but is not a member of the movement. Thus, he could find support among both MB supporters and those who are disillusioned with the movement (including the movement's youth, who are repelled by the MB's recently acquired image as hungry for power), and political parties that have split off from the MB, like Al-Wasat. The disqualification of Al-Shater and Abu Ismail benefitted Abu Al-Futouh, who will receive much of their votes, especially among Salafis. Several Salafi groups – the Al-Nour party, Al-Da'wa Al-Salafiyya, and Al-Gama'a Al-Islamiyya and its party – have already announced their support for him.[6] Abu Al-Futouh is also relying on support from liberal-secular voters, based on the assumption that they are likely to support him over the liberal-secular candidates, who stand poor chances of winning, in order to block the more extreme Islamic candidates from winning. However, Salafi support for him could change this.

'Amr Moussa's advantages are his extensive political experience and diplomatic skills, his contacts in the Arab world, his constant contact with the Egyptian public, and his long-standing anti-Israel positions. Moussa is also a leading candidate owing to the relative unpopularity of his secular alternatives, namely the candidates of the Egyptian left (whose lack of support was evident by their crushing defeat in the 2011 People's Assembly elections),[7] and candidates from the military and security forces, who are associated with the oppression of the old regime. Therefore, those who do not wish to give their votes to the Islamic candidates or to the former security forces personnel are most likely to support 'Amr Moussa.

On the other hand, his advanced age, his status as a former Mubarak man, and the fact that he did not immediately join the protestors at the onset of the revolution all work against him. Moussa is relying on what Egyptians call "the couch party," meaning the silent majority who watches from the sidelines, did not take part in the protests, and is not politically active. Indeed, thus far, only the Wafd party has announced its support for him, and even this was not by unanimous decision. Now that Ahmad Shafiq has been allowed to run, he is likely to steal votes from Moussa, as will Hamdeen Sabahi, whose poll numbers have risen recently.

Chances for the MB's alternate candidate, Dr. Muhammad Mursi, seem grim at this stage, although the movement has impressive recruiting power and a well-oiled propaganda machine. Mursi is less charismatic than Al-Shater, and his campaign started very late and during a time of acute internal schism within the movement regarding the decision to field a presidential candidate. Moreover, several factors have caused a decrease in public trust for the MB, compared to the period prior to the parliamentary elections, including its reneging on its promise not to field a presidential candidate, its takeover of the original constitution-drafting committee, and its ineffectiveness in parliament.

If no candidate wins more than 50% of the vote in the first round, a second round will be held between the two leading candidates in mid-June.

The following is a review of the presidential candidates in Egypt.

The Islamic Candidates

Dr. 'Abd Al-Mun'im Abu Al-Futouh – Everyone's Candidate

Dr. Abu Al-Futouh (61) is an independent candidate who does not belong to any party. With a degree in medicine and hospital administration, he formerly served as secretary-general of the Egyptian Doctors Union and is currently secretary-general of the Arab Doctors Union. He was arrested in the September 1981 wave of arrests and imprisoned for several months. He joined the MB in 1971 and was a member of the General Guide's office in 1987-2009. Under Mubarak, he was imprisoned for five years for his political activity, and in 2009 he was imprisoned again for several months for belonging to the then-illegal MB. In the same year, he was ousted from the MB General Guide's office on charges of corruption. The real reason behind the ouster may have been his moderate views and/or various internal rivalries. He left the movement (or was forced out) in 2011, when he announced his decision to run for president in contradiction to the movement's decision at the time to refrain from fielding a candidate.

Abu Al-Futouh stressed that he had suspended his membership in the MB immediately upon the collapse of the Mubarak regime, based on his belief that a presidential candidate must be apolitical, and that the MB must remain a da'wa movement and refrain from forming a political party or running a presidential candidate. He generally speaks warmly of the movement, and has said that the statements of MB officials against him do not reflect the movement's position. He told the daily Al-Masri Al-Yawm: "Though I have left the MB administration, I still belong to the MB school of thought and uphold the movement's moderate, wasati religious doctrine. In fact, I see myself as the secretary-general of the MB school of thought, even though I am not a movement member..." However, as MB members increased their attempts to expose contradictions in his positions and to malign him in the leadup to the elections, Abu Al-Futouh stepped up his criticism of the MB, its institutions and its members.[8]

Parties of young people who split off from the movement have already announced their support for Abu Al-Futouh's candidacy.[9] The Al-Wasat party, which split off from the MB in the 1990s, has likewise announced its support for him.[10] In the movement itself, there was an internal dispute between those who were against supporting him and those who favored it; some young people who supported him were expelled or suspended from the movement. [11] Among his supporters are students from universities in Cairo, Fayoum, Al-Mansoura, Suez and Helwan.[12] Sheikh Yousef Al-Qaradhawi, head of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, who is close to the MB, initially announced his support of Abu Al-Futouh,[13] but later withdrew it, and called on the movement to let its members vote as they wish.

In his autobiography, published in late 2010, Abu Al-Futouh described his ideological shift from Islamism to a more moderate brand of Islam. In the 1970s he was one of the founders of the extremist Al-Gama'a Al-Islamiyya, whereas in the early 2000s, he helped found the secular protest movement Kefaya, in cooperation with liberals and leftists. This movement came out against the Mubarak regime and the president's plan to pass the presidency to his son.[14] Abu Al-Futouh presents himself as the mainstream candidate, the only one occupying the middle ground between the Islamic candidates and the secularists, and as possessing the winning formula of a liberal Islam that combines democracy with religious values – and therefore as the candidate whom all Egyptians can support.[15]

Perceived as sincere and idealistic, and associated with the moderate school in the MB without being a member of the movement, Abu Al-Futouh is likely to win votes both from MB supporters and from those who have become disillusioned with the movement lately. He also benefits from the disqualification of Al-Shater and Abu Isma'il, since many of their voters are likely to revert to him. The Jihad organization, for example, has already chosen him as its candidate.[16] Abu Al-Futouh is also hoping for support from the secularists, on the assumption that they may prefer him over the liberal-secular candidates, whose chances of success are slim, and also over the more extremist Islamic candidates. The liberal "100 Coalition, for example, has agreed to back him, on the condition that the other non-Islamic candidates withdraw from the race in return for joining a "presidential committee" that will assist Abu Al-Futouh in his presidency.[17]

However, Abu Al-Futouh's moderate image among the secularists could be seriously damaged by the decision of some major Salafi groups to back him, including the Salafi Al-Nour party (which won about 25% of the vote in the recent parliamentary election), the Al-Gama'a Al-Islamiyya movement and the Jihad organization. Their decision to support him despite his considerable ideological distance from them was announced only after the list of candidates was finalized, in late April 2012, and presumably was motivated by their desire to back what seems to be a winning horse and thereby reap political benefit. Many members of this stream said they would have backed Khairat Al-Shater had he not been disqualified.

The Salafis' support for Abu Al-Futouh might also cost him voters among the MB, due to the political rivalry between this movement and the Salafis. It should be mentioned, however, that not all the Salafis support Abu Al-Futouh; some have announced that they will vote for the MB candidate Muhammad Mursi, who is ideologically closer to them.

Abu Al-Futouh also holds that the constitution-drafting committee should be extra-parliamentary, and that Article Two of the existing constitution (identifying Islam as the state religion and the principles of the shari'a as the primary source of legislation) and the articles regarding the status of the military should be left as they are.[18] He has promised that if elected he will nominate a young man, no older than 45, as his vice president.[19]

Abu Al-Futouh is in favor of implementing Islamic shari'a, and has even said he is willing to die for this cause. However, his interpretation of shari'a is relatively moderate, presumably too moderate for the Salafis. According to him, shari'a is already implemented in Egypt to a large extent, and only a small part of it, pertaining to various freedoms and rights that have not been heretofore granted, still needs to be implemented, which will be a task for the new parliament. He maintains that the Salafists' demand to implement Koranic punishments and mandate the wearing of the hijab reflect an erroneous understanding of the shari'a, and that only shari'a principles that are uncontroversial should be imposed.[20]

According to him, the best way to handle the Islamic streams is to include them, because excluding them is a crime against democracy. He sees no problem with parties that have a religious source of authority (Islamic or Christian), as long as religion is not used to discriminate among voters. He holds that the term "secularism" does not necessarily mean a complete separation of state and religion or the exclusion of religion from public life, but can also be taken to denote a complete absence of discrimination on a religious basis, without rejecting religion (i.e. Islam) as the supreme source of authority.[21] In an interview with the weekly Akhbar Al-Yawm, he said that Islam opposes the mixing of religious and political rule, but also opposes a complete separation of religion from the state and from secular affairs. In Islam, he said, the political rule is "civil" – in the sense that it is run not by God but by men, who are representatives of the public and are accountable to the public, and can be impeached. At the same time, Islam provides guidelines for regulating all social affairs; it allows people to apply judgment in handling their changing affairs, within the boundaries of general principles that guide the development of society.[22]

Abu Al-Futouh advocates a mixed presidential-parliamentary system of government, though one in which the president lacks extensive executive powers or authority over the judiciary or parliament.[23] According to him, this system is necessary, at least in the next 10-15 years, in order to prevent a dictatorship or the control of the parliamentary majority over the other branches of government. After this period, he says, a parliamentary system should be instated.[24]

About Egypt-U.S. relations, Abu Al-Futouh said in a March 2012 TV interview that the American aid to Egypt is given in return for its interests in Egypt. Therefore, if the U.S. cuts off this aid, Egypt will cut off these U.S. interests.[25] On another occasion, he said that the U.S. aid should be reassessed, to ensure that it serves Egypt's interests and does not harm its sovereignty.[26] In an interview with Al-Masri Al-Yawm, he added that the U.S. has learned from its experience in Iraq and Afghanistan that clashing with the peoples is not to its benefit, and that he would not allow any foreign element – American or from the Gulf – to determine Egypt's future. He stressed that he respects America's desire to safeguard its interests, as long as it is not at Egypt's expense, and that he would not let any international agent decide for the Egyptians how to choose their own regime.[27]

In a May 2011 TV interview, he called bin Laden's killing a "gang-like political assassination," adding that countries should not behave like gangs, and that bin Laden should have been captured and brought to trial, not executed. "All this makes us doubt whether there is a thing as Al-Qaeda or Bin Laden to begin with," he said.[28] In a TV interview in April 2004, he spoke in favor of armed resistance against the Americans in Iraq, and said that he himself was willing to take up arms against the occupation there, and against the Zionist enemy in Palestine. "When a Muslim land is occupied, jihad becomes an individual duty for every man and woman, boy and girl," he said.[29]

In a June 2011 article in the daily Al-Shurouq, he wrote that Israel is an artificial and futureless state, because most Jews oppose it and prefer to live in a "state of all its citizens." He said there is a great opportunity for peace in the region, if the Palestinians are allowed to return to their homeland, if all the foreign occupiers leave, and if the region is disarmed of nuclear weapons.[30] On a different occasion, he said that Egypt is not interested in war with Israel and means to respect its agreements with this country, and that he would have no objection to meeting with an Israeli representative if it served Egypt's interests. At the same time, he objected to the continued export of Egyptian gas to Israel.[31] In addition, he said that the peace agreement with Israel is an "agreement of surrender" that should be reassessed,[32] and that he does not and would not recognize Israel, though he would not impose his view on the parliament or the people.[33]

Dr. Muhammad Al-Mursi – The MB's Candidate by Default

Muhammad Al-Mursi (62) is chairman of the Freedom and Justice party, the political arm of the Egyptian MB. With a PhD in engineering from the University of South California, he has held a wide range of academic positions at the Egyptian university of Zaqaziq. During the 1980s he worked for the American Northridge State University in California. According to the MB website, he has also worked for NASA. He was a member of the Committee for Opposing the Zionist Enterprise in Al-Sharqiyya province. Al-Mursi was first elected to the Egyptian parliament in 2000, and headed the MB parliamentary bloc until the 2005 elections, in which he failed to be reelected. He was jailed in 2006 for several months for participating in demonstrations against the regime, and again on January 28, 2011, this time for only several days.[34]

Before the founding of the Freedom and Justice party, he served as a member of the MB General Guide's office and as the movement's spokesman. In 2007, he headed the committee that drafted a platform for a putative MB party. A protégée of Khairat Al-Shater, he belongs to the Qutubi stream in the movement,[35] as opposed to Abu Al-Futouh, who has led a more reformist line. Accordingly, he is perceived by some as over-obedient to Al-Shater and as lacking an independent or original position.[36] He submitted his candidacy for the presidency at the last moment, as an MB candidate alternative to Al-Shater, should the later be disqualified (as indeed he was).

Al-Mursi adopted Al-Shater's presidential campaign, whose central component is the Nahda (Islamic awakening) Program. Al-Shater outlined its main principles in a series of lectures he gave in Alexandria in April 2011. He said:[37] "You all know that our main and overall mission as Muslim Brothers is to empower God's Religion on Earth, to organize our life and the lives of people on the basis of Islam, to establish the Nahda of the Ummah and its civilization on the basis of Islam, and to subjugation of people to God on Earth... Imam Al-Bana, may he rest in peace, through his understanding of the Prophet's method (PBUH) and his way of instituting religion, outlined for us a number of stages or secondary objectives which, after their completion, eventually lead to the achievement of this overall mission. Thus we've learned [to start with] building the Muslim individual, the Muslim family, the Muslim society, the Islamic government, the global Islamic State and reaching the status of Ustathiyya [mastership] with that State..."[38]

At a press conference upon the launching of his presidential campaign, Al-Mursi praised the role of the young people, the women, and the Copts in the revolution, and pledged that, if elected, he would resign from the MB, and would rule in accordance with the law, the people's will, and the supreme interests of the state. He promised that it would not be the MB that ruled Egypt, but the president.[39]

Al-Mursi re-endorsed the MB slogan "Islam Is the Solution," which the movement discarded after the revolution as part of its efforts to create an impression of cooperation with the other streams in society. However, the elections commission rejected this slogan on the grounds that it is religious, not political. Al-Mursi explained that Islam is the solution in the sense that it regulates relations among people and between the people and the ruler, as well as foreign relations, and forms a basis for a just regime.[40] It should be mentioned that, in the 2007 intra-movement debates over the draft for a party platform, Al-Mursi was among those who opposed women and Copts serving as president.[41]

In an interview with Al-Jazeera TV, Al-Mursi said he advocates the establishment of a civil state with an Islamic source of authority, which honors the rights of the citizens. He also advocates retaining Article Two of the constitution, and holds that the new constitution must be in compatible with the general framework of Islamic shari'a. According to Al-Mursi, when MB founder Hassan Al-Bana said that 'the Koran is our constitution,' he meant that the principles of the Koran – justice, equality, freedom and honor – must be the basis for the constitution. He has also said that, unlike candidates Abu Al-Futouh and Al-'Awa, he defines himself as Islamic and the Islamic shari'a as the basis of the Egyptian people's identity.[42]

About the SCAF, Al-Mursi said that, if elected, he will consult it regarding the nomination of a defense minister, but will not let it impose its choice.[43] In an interview with Reuters, he said that he expects the SCAF to cede power, but believes it will remain a major behind-the-scenes player for a long time. Like Abu Al-Futouh, he advocates the establishment of a parliamentary regime, but only after an interim stage during which a combined presidential-parliamentary regime will be retained.[44]

Al-Mursi has issued a list of 25 goals he means to achieve as president, including guaranteeing political freedoms and the independence of the judiciary, reorganizing the security apparatuses, releasing 6 million citizens from the circle of poverty, forgiving farmer debt, developing the health insurance systems, solving the problem of singles and encouraging marriage, and reviving tourism.[45]

As for the peace agreement with Israel, upon his appointment as MB party chairman Al-Mursi said that the party must respect agreements approved by the Egyptian parliament; however, if the people desire to change the agreement, the issue should be discussed in the parliament.[46] When the U.S. threatened to cut off financial aid to Egypt following the restriction of civil society organizations in the country, Al-Mursi said that American aid was given as part of the Camp David Accords signed between Egypt, Israel, and the U.S., and that, therefore, talk of reducing the aid opens the door to amending the peace agreement with Israel.[47] After his appointment as MB presidential candidate, Mursi said that, if elected, he would have to express the will of Egyptians and respect Egypt and its agreements, but that, unlike his predecessor, he could not adopt policies dictated from outside the country. According to Mursi, the Palestinians have rights, and the new Egypt will not allow Palestinian suffering to continue.[48] An aide said that Al-Mursi would fulfill the MB's commitment to preserve international agreements; however, he would not meet with Israeli officials as president, but would delegate the responsibility to his foreign minister.[49]

Dr. Muhammad Salim Al-'Awa – Nobody's Candidate

Muhammad Salim Al-'Awa (69), an independent Islamic candidate, served as an attorney for the MB and the Al-Wasat party on several occasions. He is an intellectual associated with the Islamic wasati (middle-way) stream, and is a frequent contributor to Egyptian newspapers, especially the daily Al-Shurouq. In the 1960s, he was banned from holding public office on the grounds that he was associated with the MB and had spent years in Kuwait and later in London. Al-'Awa denies ever having been a member of the MB. He served as secretary-general of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, which was established by Sheikh Yousef Al-Qaradhawi, from 2004 to 2010.

His platform calls for a revision of Egypt's laws with an eye to applying the shari'a and ensuring that both old laws and new conform to its general principles.[50] This phrasing avoids clarifying Al-'Awa's exact stance on the issue of implementing the shari'a. Specifically, it does not specify whether he takes the stricter position, typical of the Salafis, which calls for implementing all shari'a directives and Koranic punishments, or the position endorsed by the more moderate Islamic streams, namely that laws must only conform to the general principles of the shari'a such as justice and lack of discrimination.

Al-'Awa has proposed establishing an Egyptian-Iranian-Turkish alliance in the domains of politics, economics, and technology, and an Egyptian-Saudi-Syrian alliance in the domains of religion, culture, and language.[51] He has admitted to having a friendly relationship with Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah,[52] which is one of the reasons for his reputation as a sympathizer with the Shi'ites.

Regarding relations with the U.S., Al-'Awa believes that they should be relations of equality, and that Egypt does not require U.S. aid.[53] As for Israel, he does not support revoking the peace agreement with it, but rather amending it via negotiations and dialogue.[54] He has also said: "Israel is an enemy, with which we have a truce – it is not a friend, it is not an ally, and we do not have a peace treaty with it. This is a truce, and it is as temporary as all truces. Throughout history, there hasn't been a single treaty that was not torn up by one of the parties to it. Oh Egyptians, make sure that the Zionists do not tear up this treaty before you do." On the other hand, he has called to normalize relations with all resistance forces such as Hizbullah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), saying, "We are the home from which the resistance must set out. We are the cave in which the resistance finds shelter in difficult times. We are the source that supplies the resistance with money, men, and weapons."[55] He also did not rule out the notion of female suicide bombers.[56] It should be mentioned that Al-'Awa has the reputation of being anti-Copt[57] and of defending the SCAF, which hurts his popularity.

Dr. 'Abdallah Al-Ash'al – The Null Candidate

'Abdallah Al-Ash'al (67), an international law professor at the American University in Cairo, previously served as the foreign minister's aide on international law and contracts. After the revolution, he tried to establish a party called "Free Egypt" but could not meet the financial burden. Instead, he joined the Al-Asala Salafi party and became its presidential candidate. Al-Ash'al is close to the MB and is a frequent writer on their website, and was even willing to step aside in favor of Khairat Al-Shater.[58] He supports the implementation of the shari'a[59] and a reevaluation of the Camp David Accords, or even their revocation, if demanded by parliament.[60] He also supports tightening relations between Egypt, Iran, and Turkey.[61]

The Secular Candidates

'Amr Moussa – The Survivor

'Amr Moussa (76), the most veteran of the candidates, began working for the Egyptian foreign ministry in 1958 and was Egypt's ambassador to India in the 1980s. In 1990 he became his country's permanent representative to the UN. In 1991 he was appointed foreign minister and served for 10 years, during which he was known for his anti-Israel positions and for developing Egypt's relations with Europe. From 2001 to 2011, he served as secretary-general of the Arab League.[62] Since the revolution, Moussa has been trying to distance himself from Mubarak and present himself as a dissenter, despite not having criticized Mubarak publicly during his presidency. In the first days of the anti-Mubarak protests, Moussa joined the "Committee of the Wise," which attempted unsuccessfully to mediate between the protestors and the regime.[63] He has also avoided directly criticizing the SCAF. Since deciding to run for president, Moussa has done comprehensive field work, and visited many villages and provinces to boost his popularity.

His advantages are his extensive political and diplomatic experience, his contacts in the Arab world, his steady contact with the Egyptian street, and his long-standing anti-Israel positions. He also benefits from the relative unpopularity of his secular alternatives, namely the candidates of the Egyptian left (whose lack of support was evident by their crushing defeat in the 2011 People's Assembly elections),[64] and candidates from the military and security forces, who are associated with the oppression of the old regime. Therefore, those who do not wish to give their votes to either the Islamic candidates or the former members of the security forces are most likely to support 'Amr Moussa.

His disadvantages are his advanced age, his status as a former Mubarak man, and the fact that he did not immediately join the protestors at the onset of the revolution. And indeed, thus far, only the Wafd party has announced its support for him, and even this was not by unanimous decision.[65]

Moussa believes that Egypt's next president should lead the country for one term of 4-6 years, so that he can lead reform and change and bring stability to the country. Subsequently, the presidency should be limited to two five-year terms. Moussa supports a presidential, rather than parliamentary, rule for the first 10 years, after which the issue of switching to parliamentary rule will be examined.

Moussa advocates continuing Egypt's peaceful nuclear program and renewing relations with all other countries, including Iran.[66] During the Mubarak era, he formulated a plan that was considered pro-Iranian – establishing a "League of Neighboring States," which would include several Arab and African countries, as well as Iran and Turkey. However, Mubarak objected to the inclusion of Iran, and the plan came to nothing. In his platform, Moussa advocates forming a new security order in the Middle East, which will ensure the security of all the states, without exception; include a just, permanent and comprehensive solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict; and disarmament of all countries – including Israel and Iran – of weapons of mass destruction.[67] Moussa told the daily Al-Shurouq that Israel would play no regional role so long as the Palestinian issue remained unresolved.[68]

Moussa has said that the peace treaty with Israel must be amended, especially regarding the security situation in Sinai, and that the part of the Camp David Accords dealing with Palestinian autonomy is no longer valid.[69] He called to open all border crossings to the Palestinians and to reexamine the gas agreement with Israel. He said negotiations with Israel over the Palestinian issue are a ruse meant to enable the expansion of settlements, and revealed that he was ousted as foreign minister due to his positions against Israel and its policy.[70] His platform states that relations with Israel should be advanced according to the degree of its responsiveness to the efforts to resolve the crisis with the Palestinians. Regarding American aid to Egypt, Moussa said that it is wrong for a people to rely on foreign aid.[71]

Moussa has proposed a detailed plan for the first 100 days of his presidency, should he be elected, whose main objectives are: restoring stability and security, and ending anarchy; forming a new regime and government that enjoy the trust of the people; fighting corruption and increasing transparency; promoting the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law; safeguarding citizens' rights and freedoms; empowering women and the youth; reforming the media; caring for the handicapped; and promoting civil society and peripheral regions. In the economic domain, he promises an Egypt free of poverty and unemployment, and the development of an economy capable of competing in the global arena.[72]

Left-Wing Candidates

Hamdeen Sabahi – The Nasserist

Hamdeen Sabahi (58) is an independent candidate associated with the Nasserist stream and known for his criticism of Sadat. He was arrested in 1979 on charges of involvement in inciting the food riots, and on several other occasions, such as in 2003, for protesting Egypt's support of the American invasion of Iraq. He was a member of the Arab Democratic Nasserist Party until 1996 when he founded the Al-Karama party, with a similar ideological base, that was only recognized as an official party after the January 2011 revolution. Between 2000 and 2010, he served as an independent MP. Sabahi also edits the party paper, which he founded in 2004. In 2005 he cofounded the Kefaya opposition movement, which protested against the Mubarak regime and the transfer of power to Mubarak's son, Gamal. Sabahi encourages tightening relations with Turkey and Iran.[73] In July 2005, he expressed support of Al-Qaeda and for attacks on American soldiers in Iraq.[74] He estimated that, if elected president, he would bring the peace agreement with Israel to a referendum.[75] Some polls recently marked him as a leading candidate.

Hisham Al-Bastawisi – A Judge in the Political Arena

Hisham Al-Bastawisi (61) is the candidate for the left-wing Tagammu' party, serves as a judge, and is a veteran oppositionist to the Mubarak regime. In the 1990s he worked as a legal advisor in the UAE. He has held a series of positions in the Egyptian public service. He is known for his fight against justice ministry influence over judges, and his struggle to impose judicial supervision over elections in the country. He was persecuted by the Mubarak regime and was forced to move to Kuwait in 2008 in search of employment, and returned to Egypt during the anti-Mubarak protests to take part in the revolution.[76] Al-Bastawisi supports modifying the Camp David Accords via negotiations.[77]

Khaled 'Ali – A Champion of Human Rights

Khaled 'Ali (40) is the youngest candidate, and is running as an independent. He is a lawyer specializing in human and worker rights, and a left-wing activist. He participated in protests to improve employee and worker conditions even before the revolution. He also provided legal aid to prisoners arrested for activism against the old regime. He markets himself as the candidate for the poor, and has won an award from an Egyptian human rights organization for his battle against corruption. He was also active against the SCAF policy of putting civilians on military trial, and called to fight the Israeli occupation in the Palestinian territories with diplomatic and economic pressure.[78]

Abu Al-'Izz Al-Hariri – The Socialist

Abu Al-'Izz Al-Hariri (67) is a parliamentary delegate and head for the Socialist Popular Alliance Party. He represented various left-wing circles in the 1976, 2000, and 2011 parliaments. He was arrested nine times in the Sadat era for participating in demonstrations and protesting the Camp David Accords. According to Al-Hariri, he has survived six assassination attempts by the regime. He objects to the Camp David Accords and considers them treasonous.[79]

Former Members of the Security Forces

Ahmad Shafiq – An Ambassador of the Old Regime

Ahmad Shafiq (71) is the former minister of civil aviation and commander of the Egyptian air force under Mubarak. He was appointed Egyptian prime minister by Mubarak in an attempt to appease the protestors who were calling for his ouster. Shafiq withdrew several weeks later due to public pressure to form a government free of Mubarak regime members.[80]

Shafiq rejects claims that he represents the SCAF or the old regime, and claims that he was the one who told Mubarak to step down and transfer rule to the SCAF. However, prior to Omar Suleiman's disqualification, Shafiq expressed willingness to withdraw from the race in his favor.[81] He has also said that he decided to run for president only after receiving the blessing of General Tantawi, his friend and confidant.[82]

Shafiq promised that, if elected president, he would appoint three deputies – one from the Islamic stream, one Christian, and one woman – and that he would ask Egyptian Nobel laureates Mohammad ElBaradei, Ahmad Zewail, Magdi Ya'coub, and Farouk Al-Baz to be his advisors.[83]

Fringe Candidates

Dr. Muhammad Fawzi 'Issa

Dr. Muhammad Fawzi 'Issa (67) is a law professor, and is a candidate for the Democratic Generation party. He is a former police officer.[84]

Ahmad Houssam Khairallah

Ahmad Houssam Khairallah (67) is a former senior General Intelligence officer. He is a candidate for the Democratic Peace Party.[85]

Mahmoud Houssam Al-Din Gallal

Mahmoud Houssam Al-Din Gallal (48) is a retired police officer and founder of The Beginning Party.[86]

* L. Lavi is a research fellow at MEMRI.


[1], April 1, 2012.

[2] Al-Ahram (Egypt), April 12, 2012.

[3] The remaining disqualified candidates were: Houssam Khairat from the Egyptian Arab Socialist Party, and Mortada Mansour and Ahmad Muhammad 'Awdh from the National Party of Egypt, who were disqualified for being candidates from parties that have internal leadership disputes; English teacher Ibrahim Al-Gharib, who was disqualified for holding a U.S. citizenship and lacking supporter signatures; former general intelligence officer Mamdouh Qutb, from the Al-Hadara Party, who was disqualified because his party's delegates had resigned from parliament; and Ashraf Barouma from the Misr Al-Kanana party, who was disqualified for having evaded military service. Al-Ahram (Egypt), April 15, 2012.

[4] Al-Ahram (Egypt), April 25, 2012.

[5] Al-Ahram (Egypt), April 27, 2012.

[6] Al-Ahram (Egypt), April 27, 29, 2012.

[7] See MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis Series Report No. 792, "People's Assembly Elections in Egypt Yield Victory for Muslim Brotherhood, Salafis; Downfall for Liberals, Left, and Revolutionary Youth", February 3, 2012, People's Assembly Elections in Egypt Yield Victory for Muslim Brotherhood, Salafis; Downfall for Liberals, Left, and Revolutionary Youth

[8] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), October 12, 2011.

[9] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), February 15, 2012.

[10] Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' (Egypt), April 30, 2012.

[11] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), June 23, 2011.

[12] Al-Ahram (Egypt), March 16, 2012.

[13] Al-Shurouq (Egypt), February 25, 2012.

[14] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), March 6, 2012.

[15] Al-Ahram (Egypt), March 16, 2012.

[16] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), April 23, 2012.

[17] Al-Ahram (Egypt), April 23, 2012.

[18] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), April 21, 2012.

[19] Al-Ahram (Egypt), March 30, 2012.

[20] Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' (Egypt), August 17, 2012;, April 9, 2012.

[21] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), October 14, 2011.

[22] (Abu Al-Futouh's official website). According to the website, the article was originally published in Akhbar Al-Yawm (Egypt), in May 10, 2012.


[24] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), October 14, 2011.

[25] See MEMRI TV Clip No. 3366, " Egyptian Presidential Candidate Abd Al-Mun'im Abu Al-Futouh: "If the US Wants to Cut Off Its Aid to Egypt, We Will Cut Off Its Interests in Egypt," March 7, 2012,

[26] Al-Misriyoun (Egypt), March 8, 2012.

[27] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), October 12, 2011.

[28] See MEMRI TV Clip No. 2994, "Egyptian Presidential Candidate Abd Al-Mun'im Abu Al-Futouh: America's "Gang-Like Political Assassination" of Bin Laden Makes Me Doubt There Is Such a Thing As Al-Qaeda,"

[29] See MEMRI TV Clip No. 44, "Dr. Abd Al-Mun'im Abu Al-Futouh, an Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood Leader, Volunteers to Carry Out Attacks Against American Forces in Iraq," April 25, 2004,

[30] According to the website, the article was originally published in Al-Shurouq (Egypt), in June 21, 2011.

[31] Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' (Egypt), August 17, 2011.

[32] Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' (Egypt), April 20, 2012.

[33] See MEMRI TV Clip No. 3366, "Egyptian Presidential Candidate Abd Al-Mun'im Abu Al-Futouh: 'If the US Wants to Cut Off Its Aid to Egypt, We Will Cut Off Its Interests in Egypt,'" March 7, 2012,

[34], April 21, 2012.

[35] This stream is named for Sayyed Qutb, the ideologue of the MB in the 1950s, who developed an extreme militant ideology different from that of MB founder Hassan Al-Bana in the 1920s. Today, however, the Qutubi stream is not associated with militant ideology; it is the movement's old guard, associated with dictatorial methods and old-fashioned principles, as opposed to the movement's reformist youth, which is demanding greater democracy in decision-making and espouses a more modern approach.

[36] October (Egypt), April 22, 2012.

[38] In an interview with a Kuwaiti weekly, Al-Shater assessed it will take 6-8 years to achieve a stable regime in Egypt, and at least 20-30 more to fully achieve the goals of the Nahda Program. He noted that drafting an explicit program is difficult, because no ready-made model exists which successfully combines the principles of Islam with practical mechanisms for running the country's administrative, economic and other day-today affairs – only Western models exist. Attempts made in other countries to draft such a program were never completed. Moreover, the situation in Egypt is unstable and constantly shifting, so most efforts are directed towards handling emergencies, not drafting long-term plans. Al-Mujtama' (Kuwait), July 23, July 30 and August 7, 2011.

[39] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), April 22, 2012.

[40], April 22, 2012.

[41] See MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 409, "Public Debate on the Political Platform of the Planned Muslim Brotherhood Party in Egypt," April 10, 2008, Public Debate on the Political Platform of the Planned Muslim Brotherhood Party in Egypt.

[42], April 19, 2012.

[43] Al-Ahram (Egypt), April 22, 2012.

[44], April 19, 2012.

[45], April 30, 2012.

[46] Al-Ahram (Egypt), May 4, 2011.

[47] See MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis Series Report No. 804, "Crisis between Egypt, U.S. Deepens over American Funding to Civil Society Organizations – Part II: The Islamists Join the Government/SCAF Campaign against the U.S.", February 24, 2012, Crisis between Egypt, U.S. Deepens over American Funding to Civil Society Organizations – Part II: The Islamists Join the Government/SCAF Campaign against the U.S..

[48] Al-Ahram (Egypt), April 22, 2012.

[49] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), April 21, 2012.

[50], May 4, 2012.

[51] Al-Misriyoun (Egypt), January 1, 2012.

[53] Al-Ahram (Egypt), June 20, 2011.

[54] Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' (Egypt), April 25, 2012.

[55] See MEMRI TV Clip No. 3012, "Egyptian Presidential Candidate Muhammad Salim Al-Awa Calls for "Affirmation of the Enmity" with Israel and for Normal Relations with the Resistance and Iran," March 12, 2011,

[56] See MEMRI TV Clip No. 1287, "Dr Muhammad Salim Al-Awa, Secretary-General of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, Explains the Rationale for Supporting Female Suicide Bombers", October 3, 2006,

[57] Al-'Awa said that Copts amass weapons in Egyptian churches in preparation for fighting the Muslims. See MEMRI TV Clip No. 2624, "Muhammad Salim Al-Awa, Secretary-General of the International Union of Muslim Scholars: Copts Amass Weapons in Egyptian Churches and Are 'Preparing for War against the Muslims", September 16, 2010,

[58] Al-Ahram (Egypt), April 4, 2012.

[59] Al-Ahram (Egypt), September 25, 2011.

[60] Al-Arab (Qatar), March 27, 2011.

[61], August 11, 2011. On May 13, after Egyptians abroad had already started voting, Ash'al announced he was withdrawing his candidacy in favor of the MB candidate, Muhammad Mursi. Al-Dustour (Egypt), May 13, 2012.

[62] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), March 5, 2012.

[63] See MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis Series Report No. 669, "The Popular Uprising in Egypt in Search of a Leadership", February 23, 2011, The Popular Uprising in Egypt in Search of a Leadership.

[64] See MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis Series Report No. 792, "People's Assembly Elections in Egypt Yield Victory for Muslim Brotherhood, Salafis; Downfall for Liberals, Left, and Revolutionary Youth", February 3, 2012, People's Assembly Elections in Egypt Yield Victory for Muslim Brotherhood, Salafis; Downfall for Liberals, Left, and Revolutionary Youth

[65] Al-Ahram (Egypt), April 4, 2012.

[66] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 3994, "Egyptian Presidential Candidates (Par II) – 'Amr Moussa: Egypt Must Turn Over New Leaf with All Countries, including Iran", July 12, 2011, Egyptian Presidential Candidates (Part II) - 'Amr Moussa: Egypt Must Turn Over New Leaf with All Countries, including Iran.

[68] Al-Shorouq (Egypt), October 5, 2011.

[69] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), September 18, 2011.

[70] Al-Ahram (Egypt), Al-Hayat (London), April 11, 2011.

[71] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), February 16, 2012.

[74] See MEMRI TV Clip #770, "Egyptian MP Hamadein Sabahi: I Support Al-Qaeda When It Kills Americans; Any Kidnapping and Slaughtering of an American in Iraq Is Good", July 17, 2005,

[75] Al-Jarida (Kuwait), May 29, 2011.

[76] Ahram Online, April 2, 2012.

[77] See MEMRI TV Clip #2886, "Egyptian Presidential Candidate Judge Hisham Al-Bastawisi Calls to Renegotiate the Camp David Accords, Linking It to the Palestinian Cause", March 29, 2011,


[80] For the criticism of the Shafiq government, see MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 3628, "Renewed Protests in Egypt: The Shafiq Government – An Insult to the Demands of the Revolution", March 1, 2011, Renewed Protests in Egypt: The Shafiq Government – An Insult to the Demands of the Revolution.

[81] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), April 4, 2012.

[82] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), February 15, 2012.

[83] Al-Ahram (Egypt), April 20, 2012.

[85] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), March 22, 2012.

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