We’re all anxious to see just who our next president might be, as this is the first time we as Egyptians will have true choices. Even before the official nomination period was set to start on March 10, presidential hopefuls have been making headlines for months with arguments between, rumors about, and race dropouts and entries of potential candidates.
Expected to take place in the first week of June, the election schedule was to be announced in late February. However, at a February 19 press conference, the head of Electoral Committee Faruq Sultan said the announcement would be delayed until the voting procedures for Egyptian expatriates are sorted out. Presidential hopefuls can, however, register as official candidates from March 10 to April 8.
So amongst the political hustle and bustle that is a presidential race, not to mention the sometimes comic bids, the best place to start is with a who's who of who's running. Egypt Today sheds light on the most prominent hopefuls and who they are.
Former Secretary General of the Arab League Amr Moussa, a former minister of foreign affairs under ousted President Hosni Mubarak and a popular figure, launched his campaign months ago. He is seen as a front-runner in the presidential race although his ties with the previous regime have generated criticism.
Moussa has voiced concerns over the Supreme Council of Armed Forces' (SCAF) transitional period, calling upon them to hand over power to an elected president before the end of April. In a February 6 Reuters interview, he said that if he were elected, the military would remain one of the basic institutions in the country but not a separate one, “meaning not having a life of its own and the country having a different life."
He has said that certain aspects of the peace treaty with Israel should be "revisited" while the relationship with the United States had to become “special.” Moussa also has not ruled out a chance to cooperate with the Muslim Brotherhood, a strong political force and the current majority party in the Parliament.
Abdel-Moneim Aboul-Fotouh is another favorite in the race, gaining much support and popularity among the revolution supporters as he grew critical of the ruling SCAF. The former Muslim Brotherhood member is among Egypt’s Islamist candidates, albeit a more liberal one; Aboul-Fotouh left the group to run for president after the Brotherhood officially decided not to field a presidential candidate and banned its members from running.
In an December 2011 Reuters interview, Aboul-Fotouh said he would work to protect personal freedoms, opposing any attempt to impose religious rules on food, drink and dress or advocate coercion in beliefs in a nation where 10% of the 80 million-strong population are Christian.
"I will fight this with all my powers whether as a member of society, an official or as president," he was quoted saying.
He recently criticized the delay in announcing the presidential elections date, describing the political scene as "betraying the people and leading to chaos," according to Al-Wafd newspaper.
“A revolution does not request, it decides,” Aboul-Fotouh said. “People do not plead, they take action as they are the real guarantee to achieve fair and free elections, in order to reach a civil democratic state."
In a daring and empowering move, Bothaina Kamel is the first and only woman to express her intention to run for president. Her presidential bid made headlines in April 2011 for challenging stereotypes of women's role in politics, but many still believe she doesn’t stand a chance to win in Egypt’s patriarchal society.
The former television anchor has given hope for many women to get involved in Egypt’s political future. A frequent participant in protest marches and demonstrations, she was one of the first presidential hopefuls to criticize the SCAF, with whom she has been in direct confrontation. In May, Kamel was summoned for investigation for her criticism of the military, and she was also briefly arrested in November during the violent clashes in Mohamed Mahmoud Street.
In her bid for presidency, Kamel hopes to enable marginalized groups such as the Copts, the Nubians and the Bedouins, to find a voice in politics.
"By putting myself forward I am making this democratic right – the right of a woman to be president – a concrete reality, and that alters expectations," she told The Guardian in August.
Former Prime MinisterAhmed Shafiq has declared he will run for office, denying reports that he had SCAF’s support. Appointed by former President Hosni Mubarak in late January 2011, Shafiq had been minister of civil aviation from 2002 until 2011. Seen as a former regime’s partisan, Shafiq holds most of his rallies in upscale hotels with an agenda of bringing back stability to Egypt and proposing an economic agenda favoring foreign investment by rebuilding confidence, trust and respect for the Egyptian state.
Moderate Islamic thinker and lawyer Mohammed Selim El Awa is also expected to announce his candidacy. He has written a book on the concept of Islam and governance and served as secretary general of the International Union for Muslim Scholars. He has also worked as a professor of Islamic jurisprudence in a number of Arab Universities.
Controversial and ultra conservative Hazem Salah Abu Ismail is also in the running for high office. Known for his striking comments on Islam, Abu Ismail draws his core support from the Salafis, who form the second largest political bloc in Parliament after the Muslim Brotherhood. Among his most controversial statements call for covering ancient monuments, and banning alcohol, mixed gender beaches and gambling.
Hisham Al-Bastawisi, a judge and vice president of the Court of Cassation, has also declared his presidential aspirations. He is best known for calling for the judiciary's independence in 2005 and alleging the regime had rigged the elections. Al-Bastawisi political platform is based on change and development.
Founder of Al-Karama Party Hamdeen Sabahi announced the official launch of his presidential campaign in March 2011, with an ambitious campaign goal of rebuilding Egypt to rank eighth among the world's 10 strongest economies by 2020 and establishing a democratic regime that respects civil freedoms, social justice and equal distribution of wealth.
A grassroots campaign has put forward Khaled Aly, 41-year old lawyer and founder of the Hesham Mubarak Law Center. Aly is known for defending workers rights, fighting against privatization and demanding social and economic rights, such as the right to minimum wage.
Abu El Ezz El Hariri, one of the founders of the leftist Socialist Popular alliance, has also put forward his bid. El Hariri recently won a seat in Parliament.
Nobel Peace Prize laureate and former head of the International Atomic Energy AgencyMohamed ElBaradei dropped his bid in protest of how the transition period has been handled by the SCAF
Ayman Nour, founder of the Ghad-El Thawra party, had to drop his bid after he lost his court battle to have his 2006 conviction of voter fraud annulled; convicts are not allowed to run for political office.
Nabil El Araby, the current Arab League secretary general and former foreign minister, has been the subject of rumors that the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, as well as the ruling military council, have tried to convince him to run for president. He, however, denied all claims.
Rumors have also circulated that Omar Suleiman, former vice president in the last weeks of Mubarak’s rule and former intelligence chief, would enter the race. Suleiman denied the claims when they first surfaced in July 2011.