Egypt kicks off presidential election with expat vote (JERUSALEM POST) By OREN KESSLER, REUTERS 05/13/12)
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Egypt’s presidential election began for citizens abroad this weekend
after a vitriolic television debate between the two leading
candidates produced no clear favorite to lead the Arab world’s most
Amid the uncertainty, Egypt’s one million expatriates registered to
vote – mostly in Europe, North America and the Persian Gulf states –
may help swing the election. On Friday and Saturday hundreds of
Egyptians queued in front of their embassy in the Saudi Arabian
capital Riyadh to cast their votes, as did compatriots in places as
far-flung as Rome and Paris. Regular voting is May 23 and 24 in the
first round of the election that is expected to go to a June run-off
between the top two candidates.
In Thursday’s debate both of those candidates called for a revision
of the Egypt-Israel peace treaty, with Islamist hopeful Abdel Moneim
Abol Fotouh describing Israel as his country’s “enemy” and
nationalist contender Amr Moussa acknowledging that most of his
countrymen view the Jewish state as an adversary.
“Israel is an enemy which is built on occupation, owns 200 nuclear
warheads, doesn’t respect international decisions and attacks
religious symbols,” said Abol Fotouh.
“The majority of Egyptians are enemies of Israel. The agreement with
Israel should be revised and the sections which are against our
interests should be removed immediately and only what’s in our
interests should stay.”
Moussa – a vociferous critic of Israel as foreign minister and Arab
League chief – conceded that most Egyptians view the Jewish state as
an enemy, but phrased his response carefully.
“We have lots of disagreements. Most of our people consider it an
enemy, but the responsibility of the president is to deal with such
things responsibly and not run after hot-headed slogans,” he said.
A Pew poll released last week found 61 percent of Egyptians wanted to
cancel the 1979 peace agreement with Israel, up from 54% a year ago.
A former top official of the once-banned Muslim Brotherhood, Abol
Fotouh portrayed Moussa as a member of the unpopular regime of
deposed president Hosni Mubarak.
“There is a rule that says the that one who created the problem
cannot solve it,” said the 60-year old Abol Fotouh.
Moussa, who was head of the Arab League at the time of the uprising,
defended his record as Egypt’s foreign minister but added that he had
left the post in 2001.
“The regime that fell, fell with Moussa outside of it,” he said of
himself. “I say, you too were silent. You used to defend the
positions of the Muslim Brotherhood and not Egyptian interests.”
Abol Fotouh has sought to build a broad constituency encompassing
mainstream and hard-line Islamists as well as non-Islamists. Moussa
appeals to voters who believe Egypt needs someone with experience at
the helm and who worry about the consolidation of Islamist influence.
Thursday’s late-night presidential debate was the first in Egypt’s
history and widely viewed across the Arab world. During a 90-minute
build-up to the show, the broadcasters set the historical scene by
screening archive footage of the 1960 US presidential debate between
Kennedy and Richard Nixon – the first-ever televised presidential
Moussa said he was the statesman Egypt needed to lead it through “a
crisis of existence.”
Abol Fotouh said he was the man to unite the country and end “a state
of polarization” between Islamists and non-Islamists including
leftists and relative liberals.
Each pushed the other to clarify their views on Islamic law. Abol
Fotouh asked questions of Moussa that suggested the latter was less
respectful of Shari’a, or Islamic law. Moussa intimated that Abol
Fotouh was saying different things to different people on the subject
that he was more radical than he was letting on.
Moussa asked his rival about an oath he had pledged to the religious
guide of the Brotherhood.
“What does this oath mean? Does it mean that if you are elected you
will have [another] president?” he said.
Abol Fotouh replied: “It seems Amr Moussa doesn’t follow the news
carefully and doesn’t know that I resigned from the Muslim
Brotherhood after I decided to run for the presidency in April 2011.
This resignation was because I wanted to be free to serve the nation –
to be a president for all Egyptians.”
Moussa accused him of double-speak, asking how he had managed to win
endorsement from both non-Islamists and hard-line Salafi Islamists.
“With Salafis, he is a Salafi. With liberals, he is a liberal. With
centrists, he is a centrist,” he said.
The tension which appeared to build through the debate manifested
itself in scathing closing remarks.
Moussa urged Egyptians not to vote for a man he said was unclear in
his policies and was not qualified to lead a state, accusing him
of “forging history.”
Abol Fotouh shot back by saying that a vote for Moussa would be a
“We are for the first time choosing the president of Egypt,” he
said. “I hope that we don’t allow ourselves to be taken back, once
again, to the fallen regime, with its ideas, its substance and
figures.” (© 1995-2011, The Jerusalem Post 05/13/12)
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