Old and new Egypt compete in presidential race (LA TIMES) By Jeffrey Fleishman CAIRO, EGYPT 04/10/12)
LOS ANGELES TIMES
LOS ANGELES TIMES Articles-Index-Top
Islamists once jailed under Hosni Mubarak are running strong in
Egypt´s presidential race, but so are former officials from the
CAIRO ó Egypt´s curious gallery of presidential candidates reveals
how much the nation has changed yet how deeply it still echoes with
voices connected to the repressive rule of deposed President Hosni
The country´s revolution brought new faces, including Khairat Shater,
onetime political prisoner now running as a candidate for the Muslim
Brotherhood. But the revolt failed to sweep away prominent, if
shadowy, challengers from the past, most notably Omar Suleiman, the
former leader´s spymaster and confidant.
The presidential race lays bare today´s volatile Egypt: a
battleground between ascending Islamists and the remnants of a regime
seeking to conjure a sense of stability in a land troubled by crime
and economic turmoil. The contest between the two forces sharpened
after the revolution´s young activists failed to inspire Egyptians
with a political alternative.
"If we have three members of Mubarak´s regime running for office
after the revolution, then it is obvious the revolution remains
unfinished," said Bashir Abdel Fattah, editor of Democracy magazine.
He added that the race reflected Egypt´s "uncertain and inexperienced
The grass-roots reach of the Muslim Brotherhood, which controls
nearly 50% of parliament, makes Shater, a multimillionaire, a strong
contender in next month´s election. Another popular Islamist is Abdel
Moneim Aboul Fotouh, a moderate who was expelled from the Brotherhood
when he chose to run as an independent.
Suleiman´s appearance has revived memories of last year when, as
Mubarak´s vice president, he stepped on the wrong side of history and
disappeared after failing to buttress the regime against the popular
revolt. His candidacy is not expected to significantly recast the
dynamics of the race. but it may skim support from two other Mubarak-
era officials: former Foreign Minister Amr Moussa, who is leading in
the polls, and former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik.
The retired intelligence chief´s campaign has outraged Islamists and
reminded the country that many things look the same despite a
rebellion that gripped the Arab world and promised a new political
current. Aboul Fotouh, who was jailed by Mubarak´s regime, said
Suleiman´s bid "insults those who have sacrificed their lives to put
an end to the police state."
In an interview published Monday, Suleiman told Al Akhbar newspaper
that he received "death threats and messages saying, ´We will take
revenge´ from members of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists
The Egyptian Independent newspaper described the contest as a "fast-
changing presidential race that has the unpredictable turns of a soap
opera." Ahram Online said: "Who will run and who will be
disqualified, and what is the fate of Egypt?"
Suleiman submitted his campaign papers over the weekend amid fanfare.
Commentators suggested he was the choice of the ruling military
council, even as he trails Shater, Moussa and Hazem Salah abu Ismail,
an ultraconservative Islamist who may be forced from the race in
light of revelations that his deceased mother was a U.S. citizen.
The 75-year-old Suleiman is the strongest link to Mubarak, giving
Egyptians, many of whom fret over the nation´s instability, a clear
vote against an Islamist-controlled government and the rebellion that
disrupted their lives.
"I fear the monopoly of the Brotherhood and the Islamists," said
Sherif Hussein, a 28-year-old engineer and Suleiman
supporter. "During Mubarak´s time we were not financially struggling
like we are now.... Suleiman has great international and regional
ties and with his connections can lure foreign investments back in no
The competing images of Shater and Suleiman couldn´t be starker.
Imprisoned by Mubarak for years, Shater, who has been meeting with
U.S. officials, ran his corporations from a jail cell while financing
the Brotherhood. Suleiman was Mubarak´s chief international
negotiator and a symbol of the secret police and security forces that
persecuted Shater and thousands of other Islamists and dissidents.
Today, Shater is closer to the center of power. But many Egyptians
are angry at the Brotherhood for running Shater after promising not
to enter a candidate, to calm fears of Islamist hegemony. There is
the prospect he could be disqualified from the race as a felon; the
Brotherhood entered a backup candidate in the event that happens.
The Brotherhood also faces intense criticism over its control of a
panel to draft a constitution. Liberals, secularists, Christians and
a leading Muslim institution are boycotting the constituent assembly.
The acrimony is another recurring sign that the Brotherhood, Egypt´s
most potent and revered opposition for decades, has stumbled as it
attempts to lead.
"The Brotherhood has lost a lot of credibility and their performance
in parliament is yet to convince many," said Fattah, the magazine
editor. "It is not likely that they will win many presidential votes
outside the group."
Part of the problem is the ruling military council, which has
promised to hand power to a civilian government by the end of June.
The Brotherhood and the military have been cooperating for months,
but recent strains have upset the relationship. Both sides want to
protect their power, especially the military, which has vast economic
The new president will immediately encounter this uneasy balance.
"Everything looks gloomy and I don´t know what the future of the
country and the revolution will be like," said Ahmed Saied Dahan, a
banker. "The military did everything possible to make Egyptians hate
the revolution and what it stands for. And now many people are
willing to go back to Mubarak´s days in the shape of Suleiman, Moussa
or Shafik." Amro Hassan of The Times´ Cairo bureau contributed to
this report. (Copyright © 2012 Los Angeles Times 04/10/12)
Return to Top
MATERIAL REPRODUCED FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY