CUMALİ ÖNAL

Is Amr Moussa really the favorite presidential candidate?

This week Egypt will undertake the most important democratic test of its history »»

This week Egypt will undertake the most important democratic test of its history when the country elects its first democratic president.

Twelve candidates are competing in the presidential race. These can be divided into three categories. First, there are the top officials of the Mubarak regime, such as former Arab Union Secretary-General and Foreign Affairs Minister Amr Moussa and former Civil Aviation Minister and the last Prime Minister of Mubarak’s regime Ahmed Shafiq.

Next are the candidates with the same political stance as the Muslim Brotherhood, such as Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, one of the movement’s senior members, who left the Muslim Brotherhood movement last year, and Muhammad Mursi, who has been nominated by the movement itself.

The frontrunner of the third category is socialist-nationalist Hamdeen Sabahi.

For the first time in Egypt’s history, a lively election campaign is being staged throughout the country. Billboards are covered with campaign posters. Media outlets are continuously broadcasting and publishing campaign speeches and election advertisements of the presidential candidates.

Just like the parliamentary elections, the presidential elections may bring surprising results. According to public opinion polls, conducted primarily by the al-Ahram Center for Political & Strategic Studies and newspapers, Moussa will get more than 40 percent of votes while Shafiq is ranked the second or third candidate.

Those polls recall the fabricated public opinion polls conducted in Turkey with the purpose of ensuring certain parties win the electoral race.

If parliamentary election results are taken into consideration coupled with the strength of the public’s reaction against the former regime, it seems unlikely that Moussa and Shafiq will receive more than 60 percent of the vote, as the polls suggest.

In order for Moussa and Shafiq, who address the same audience, to receive such a high percentage of the vote, they need to have a very effective economic plan. However, like the other candidates, neither has put forward any substantial solutions to the socioeconomic problems of the Egyptian people.

According to the impression we had regarding several polls held recently, Moussa is likely to garner around 30 percent and Shafiq around 10 percent.

The runner-up is tipped to be Fotouh. He is predicted to get between 20 and 30 percent of the vote. Fotouh’s voters are predominantly young members of the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi groups as well as some liberals.

The Muslim Brotherhood is anticipated to take away a large chunk of the presidential elections vote. It received around 40 percent of the vote in the parliamentary elections.

Shafiq and Sabbahi have the potential to get around 10 percent.

Of course, if some candidates withdraw from the electoral race at the 11th hour to support another candidate, these figures may change.

According to these possibilities, none of the candidates is expected to receive more than 50 percent of the vote in the first round.

However, the second round promises to be very competitive. If Moussa and Fotouh aren’t eliminated in the first round, the potential slice of the vote of each will be very similar -- around 40 percent. Thus, the support of Sabbahi and other candidates will bear critical importance.

Getting back to the case of public opinion polls, do their results reflect the public’s actual preferences or are they an attempt by newspaper editors and other official or non-official organizations to affect the election results? If it is the latter, this method was tried in Turkey many times and every time the press ended up the loser. The public in Turkey never changed its preference by referring to opinion poll results.

Besides, is the reason underlying the support for Moussa due to the fact that his strong rivals have an Islamic background? Or is it because of the reliance placed on a 77-year-old experienced and shrewd politician? Or his close connection to the army?

We only wish that whoever wins the presidential race, the real winners will be the Egyptian people.

2012-05-20

Columnists

Columnist:: CUMALİ ÖNAL