Egypt vote chaos boosts Moussa, Abol Fotouh (REUTERS) By Tom Perry CAIRO, EGYPT 04/17/12 7:06pm EDT)
Reuters News Service
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(Reuters) - The race for the Egyptian presidency has been redefined
by the disqualification of Hosni Mubarak´s spy chief and prominent
Islamists, including a Muslim Brotherhood candidate and a popular
The developments add to the turbulence of a transition to democracy
that has been punctuated by spasms of violence and political
rivalries between once-banned Islamists, secular-minded reformists
and remnants of the Mubarak order that was overthrown in last year´s
Winners from the drama include former Arab League chief Amr Moussa
and moderate Islamist Abdel Moneim Abol Fotouh. Both have spent
longer on the campaign trail than most but were eclipsed by late
comers to the race who were disqualified on Tuesday.
The losers include the Brotherhood, the biggest party in parliament
which decided at the last moment to throw its hat into the ring but
whose chances appear to have been undermined by the disqualification
of its first choice candidate.
Khairat al-Shater, a millionaire businessman and the deputy
Brotherhood leader, is now out of the picture, disqualified on the
grounds of a criminal conviction passed down during Mubarak´s rule,
when the group was banned.
In his place, the group will field Mohamed Mursi, head of its
political party who had filed the official paperwork to run just in
case Shater was disqualified.
"The group and party announce they are continuing in the competition
for the post of the head state with their candidate Dr. Mohamed
Mursi," the Brotherhood said in a statement.
With the Brotherhood´s well-organized electoral machine behind him,
Mursi immediately becomes a contender in the election that gets
underway in May and is expected to go to a run-off in June.
But political analysts see the 60-year old engineer as a much weaker
candidate than Shater.
"Mursi was the backup for a reason," said Shadi Hamid, an expert on
the Brotherhood. "Shater was the only one among them who looked
remotely presidential. It´s a big blow to the Brotherhood."
Shater had been stressing his Islamist credentials on his few days on
the campaign trail, striking a tone that could have galvanized
support among the ultra-orthodox Salafi movement that also did well
in the legislative election.
A Salafi preacher, Hazem Salah Abu Ismail, had hoped the same
constituency would launch him into the presidency. But he too is now
out of the vote, disqualified because his mother held a U.S.
passport - something he strongly denies.
Abu Ismail´s campaign had festooned Egypt with his posters,
generating both broad name recognition and questions over where his
finance was coming from. Rivals alleged it may have been from like-
minded conservatives in the Gulf.
Hamid said: "What made Shater a promising candidate was that he could
unite the Islamist factions, he could bring the Salafis on board.
With Mursi it will be more challenging but it is still possible."
MOUSSA TO LAUNCH MANIFESTO
With a Mursi candidacy, there are also greater chances of Brotherhood
internal discipline breaking down and some of its votes going to Abol
Fotouh. He was expelled from the group last year when he decided to
launch his own presidential bid.
"He will get many of the votes that were going to go to Shater and
Abu Ismail as many will not be convinced by Mursi, who has been away
from the Egyptian media in the last period," said Nabil Abdel Fattah,
a political scientist.
Abol Fotouh, 60, was part of a moderate reform wing in the
Brotherhood until his expulsion. His candidacy has won the approval
of Sheikh Yousef al-Qaradawi, an Egyptian cleric based in Qatar who
is influential in the Brotherhood and beyond.
A medical doctor, Abol Fotouh has also started to win support outside
the Islamist movement among secular-minded Egyptians looking for
someone committed to democratic reform.
Moussa, who describes himself as a liberal nationalist, is also
likely to win votes among secular-minded Egyptians worried about the
dramatic gains made by Islamists in the year since Mubarak was
The 75-year old, a former Egyptian foreign minister, has also move
squarely back to the heart of the race thanks to Tuesday´s
Moussa´s campaign had to contend with the last-minute entry to the
race of Omar Suleiman, Mubarak former intelligence chief who seemed
likely to erode some of Moussa´s support base.
Moussa is due to launch his campaign manifesto on Wednesday in a slum
on the outskirts of Cairo.
"The disqualifications...are certainly to the benefit of Amr Moussa
and Abdul Moneim Abol Fotouh who were listed as front-runners before
the sudden and last minute entrances of Suleiman and shatter to the
race," said Mustapha Al-Sayyid, a political science professor at
Cairo University. (Additional reporting by Yasmine Saleh; Writing by
Tom Perry) (© Thomson Reuters 2012. 04/17/12)
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