Goodspeed Analysis: Egypt’s first free presidential elections are a showdown between two dominant forces (NATIONAL POST COMMENT) Peter Goodspeed 04/10/12)
NATIONAL POST Articles-Index-Top
Egypt’s first ever, free, presidential elections are becoming a
showdown between the two dominant forces that emerged from last
year’s popular revolution – the ruling military and the country’s
Monday, a day after nominations for the May 23-24 presidential vote
closed, the military and the Islamists squared off in a series of
confrontations that overshadowed the initial campaign moves of the
election’s 23 declared presidential candidates.
Former dictator Hosni Mubarak’s former vice-president and spy chief,
Omar Suleiman, set the tone of the coming campaign when he filed his
presidential nomination papers just minutes before the Sunday
afternoon deadline, relying on soldiers from the army’s Presidential
Guard to protect him from thousands of well-wishers as he arrived at
the election commission offices.
Early last week, General Suleiman announced he was withdrawing from
the election because he didn’t have enough time to collect the 30,000
voters’ signatures he needed to endorse his candidacy. But by last
Friday he changed his mind, saying he had to “answer the call of the
Two days later, just as nominations were about to close, he submitted
nomination papers with 112,000 signatures.
Widely regarded as Mr. Mubarak’s right hand man and an architect of
repression during the final decade of the Mubarak dictatorship, Gen.
Suleiman oversaw political crackdowns against Mr. Mubarak’s opponents
and was appointed vice-president in a failed attempt to quell last
Still, when he declared his candidacy Sunday, he insisted he
would “complete the goals of the revolution” and “achieve the hopes
of the Egyptian people, including security, stability and prosperity.”
That infuriated Islamists, like the Muslim Brotherhood’s deputy
leader and chief presidential candidate, Khairat al Shater, who spent
12 years in prison under Mr. Mubarak. In an interview with Reuters
news agency, Mr. Shater called Gen. Suleiman’s candidacy “an insult
to the revolution and the Egyptian people.”
“Omar Suleiman has made a big mistake,” he said. “He will only win
through forgery and if this happens, the revolution will kick off
The opposition newspaper Al Wafd greeted Gen. Suleiman’s candidacy
describing him as “a loyal son of the [former] regime who spent his
life torturing and threatening Egyptians and whoever stood in his
Mahmoud Ghozlan, a spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood, said if the
elections are free and fair, Gen. Suleiman will lose.
“The Egyptian people hate him, they know his scandals and his
animosity to the public,” he said. “He will either take a big fall or
he will re-ignite the revolution.”
But political analysts predict Gen. Suleiman and his backers in the
military may be able to tap into a motherlode of support from
Egyptians who have become fed up with the political chaos of the last
year and are worried about their country’s crumbling economy, crime
“There is a real constituency that now yearns for law and order and
stability after the tumultuous period following the fall of the
Mubarak regime,” said Michael Hanna, of the Century Foundation in New
People might vote for Gen. Suleiman, simply out of a yearning for the
stability of the pre-revolutionary order.
“There has been a change on the Egyptian street,” Gen. Suleiman said
Sunday. “The practices of the [Muslim] Brotherhood and their
monopolistic ways and unacceptable pronouncements have contributed to
the change in public opinion.
“The revolution has created a new reality and no one can bring back a
regime which has fallen and which the population has rejected.”
Egypt’s Islamists control up to 70% of the seats in the country’s new
parliament and have also appointed the majority of members of a
committee charged with drafting a new constitution. But they have
clashed repeatedly with Egypt’s military, after initially trying to
coordinate their actions with the ruling military junta and the
appointed transitional government that succeeded Mr. Mubarak.
Now that Islamist parties dominate parliament, they are demanding the
military-appointed cabinet resign and make way for a parliamentary-
led government. But the military is refusing to hand over power until
after the presidential elections.
Many Egyptians feel their politics have degenerated into a power grab
by the Islamists, while the country’s generals are still trying to
cling to power.
Without ever having experienced a fair presidential election, they
already anticipate attempts to manipulate the vote.
After insisting for almost a year that they would not nominate a
candidate in the presidential elections, the Muslim Brotherhood now
has two leading members in the running.
Mohamed Mursi, the chairman of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice
Party submitted his own nomination papers at the last minute Sunday
in anticipation his party’s main candidate, Mr. Shater, might be
disqualified from running based on the criminal record he received
when jailed by the Mubarak government.
Another leading Islamist, ultraconservative Salafist Hazem Saleh Abu
Ismail, was ranked the second most popular candidate in the campaign
in early opinion polls — after former Egyptian foreign minister and
former head of the Arab League Amr Moussa — but Egypt’s Interior
Ministry declared last Thursday that he is ineligible to run because
his mother took out U.S. citizenship just before she died several
Presidential contenders have to be citizens with two Egyptian
parents. They also need 30,000 signatures from voters in at least 15
of Egypt’s 27 governorates or have the backing of 30 MPs or a
political party with at least one seat in parliament.
More than 500 people took out nomination papers, but only 23
completed the process and that number could be reduced further by
April 26 as the election commission reviews their nomination papers.
Buthaina Kamel, a former television news anchor who ran a year-long
campaign to become Egypt’s first female presidential candidate,
withdrew in the end, saying she was unable to get the required 30,000
The first round of Egypt’s elections is scheduled for May 23-24, with
a run-off round being held June 16-17 if needed.
The military has promised it will hand power over to an elected
president by June 21. (© 2012 National Post, a division of Postmedia
Network Inc. 04/10/12)
Return to Top
MATERIAL REPRODUCED FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY