Long-awaited presidential elections were held in Egypt on 23 and 24 May (with a second-round run-off scheduled for 16 and 17 June). Of 23 candidates who presented themselves, however, 10 had been disqualified on a variety of grounds, behind which it is not hard to see the concern of western imperialism to defend the interests of Israel.
Among the most influential opponents of Israel contending for the presidency are the salafists, generally depicted as muslim extremists, whose preferred candidate was Hazem Salah Abu Ismail, who was thought to have had some 22 percent support among the electorate according to opinion polls. He was disqualified on the grounds that his mother at some time held US citizenship – an allegation he denies.
Also disqualified was the Muslim Brotherhood’s most influential candidate, Khairat el-Shater, on the grounds that he has a criminal conviction (on trumped-up charges brought against him under the Mubarak regime!)
In case anybody might suspect that the ruling Egyptian military were trying to skew the odds against the religious candidates, the electoral commission also disqualified a ‘big-name’ secularist, namely Omar Suleiman, a former vice president under Mubarak and his chief of intelligence. The grounds in his case were that his paperwork was not in order.
With only some 9 percent support in the opinion polls, his extremely last-minute application, and having earlier declared his total unwillingness to stand, suspicious minds might veer to the conclusion that he only stood with a view to being disqualified and thus giving the electoral commission an appearance of even-handedness.
The remaining candidate who appeared at the time to have the greatest support was Amr Moussa, who was foreign minister under Mubarak. The opinion polls had put his support at 30 percent.
While the Muslim Brotherhood then fielded an alternative candidate, the suitably fundamentalist (and, incidentally, anti-Israel) Mohamed al-Morsi (to counter the attraction of the salafists), the salafists, because of their hostility to the Muslim Brotherhood (born of the fact that the salafists have their base amongst the poor peasantry, while the Muslim Brotherhood represent the merchant class) were urging their supporters to vote instead for the relatively liberal muslim approach of Abdel Moneim Abu el-Fotouh, who before the disqualifications had support of 8-10 percent in the opinion polls.
As we go to press, the first results of the election are coming in, and the front runner appears to be Mohamed al-Morsi, on 25.5 percent of the vote, with the secular and christian vote bringing in hard on al-Morsi’s heels one Ahmed Shafiq, Mubarak’s last prime minister, with 23.4 percent. Shafiq is a former air-force commander who continues to profess admiration for Hosni Mubarak, and who has stated recently that “the revolution is over”.
The run-off will be between these two, but nevertheless some 40 percent of the vote was shared by Foutouh and the secular Hamdeen Sabahi, a left-wing journalist who experienced a late surge in support to gain 21.3 percent of the vote. According to alarabiya.net, allegations have arisen that the interior ministry handed out over 900,000 ID cards to Egyptian soldiers so that they could vote for Ahmed Shafik, which would be a major campaign violation. Presidential candidate Sabahi has asked for the Egyptian election to be temporarily suspended until an investigation is carried out. (See ‘Egypt’s third runner-up seeks election suspension: lawyer’, 26 May 2012)
The turnout was surprisingly low, with only 41 percent of those eligible actually voting, which means that whoever eventually becomes Egypt’s president will only enjoy minority support.