The Calculus of Egypt’s Presidential Race

“President Hosni Mubarak has decided to step down from his position as president of the republic.” Uttered by former Vice President Omar Suleiman on the evening of February 11, 2011, these words set in motion jubilations by millions of Egyptians celebrating the ultimate triumph of their will over the obstinate dictator.

Although the previous eighteen tumultuous days had united the overwhelming majority of Egyptians regardless of political orientation, religious persuasion, economic class or social strata, the ultimate victory of the revolution was not inevitable. The massive demonstrations that started on January 25, were originally called for by groups dominated by youth activists such as the April 6 Movement and “We are All Khaled Said,” in reference to the young blogger who was murdered by state security agents. Most established political parties and social movements including the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) did not initially support the calls to protest in anticipation of the security crackdown, though they did not discourage their members from participation.

Within days the demonstrations escalated and it became clear that the security forces were not able to stop the growing protests. By January 28, the protesters called for a Day of Rage, and all genuine opposition parties, led by the MB, took to the streets calling for the ouster of Mubarak. Within two weeks, the regime was ousted and the military, under the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which refused to back Mubarak and violently disperse the demonstrators, assumed political control, promising a peaceful transfer of power to a democratically elected civilian government within six months.

It was the most momentous event in the modern history of Egypt. But unfortunately the revolutionaries went home satisfied with their astonishing achievement as the remnants of the regime – the fulool– were on the run.

But this incredible historical unity of all Egyptians soon dissipated, giving way to deep ideological divisions. Urgent issues such as whether the constitution should be written before democratic elections or vice versa, or long-term questions concerning the identity of the country, the nature of the state, the role of Islam in society, and the status of the military were hotly debated outside an agreed upon framework. Religious and social groups that were highly organized insisted on holding the elections first, utilizing their clear advantage over others especially the new revolutionary groups that lacked structure, manpower, and resources.

But these revolutionary groups realized early in the standoff with SCAF that none of their objectives were going to be accomplished without applying tremendous pressure on the military council. For several months, massive demonstrations returned to Tahrir Square in order to compel SCAF to dissolve parliament and local assemblies, change the government, force trials of the deposed president and his corrupt cronies, repeal emergency laws, and halt military trials, among other revolutionary demands.

Throughout these demonstrations that sometimes turned deadly, especially in July and November, the revolutionary youth accused the MB of turning a blind eye to the SCAF’s abuses, and in some instances even defending or justifying its actions. Hence, throughout the summer two main camps were formed: the religious camp with the MB and the more conservative Salafis on the one hand, and the secular camp that included the liberals, the leftists, and many youth groups. The former clearly wanted calm in order not to give any pretext to postpone the parliamentary elections, scheduled for end of November, while the latter accused the former of pursuing political expediency at the expense of the primary objectives of the revolution.

By the end of January 2012, the elections of the two-chamber parliament concluded with stunning victories for the religious camp garnering close to 75 percent of the seats, led by the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), the political arm of the MB, gaining 47 percent of the seats, while the Noor Party (the political arm of the Salafi groups) acquiring 25 percent of the seats. Other smaller Islamic parties received 3 percent while all the liberals and the leftists parties combined acquired less than 22 percent. The fulool, of the banned National Democratic Party (NDP), running under numerous new-fangled names, garnered less than 3 percent.

The Brotherhood and SCAF

 The charge of the revolutionary groups was not completely without merit. The MB by its nature is a conservative group that favors phased reforms rather than revolutionary change. It had been banned since 1954 after its confrontation with the Nasser regime. Since the release of its members from prison in the early seventies, its primary objective was to receive recognition by the state and work within the system. So when in a secret meeting during the height of the revolution on Feb. 1, former Intelligence Chief and Vice President Omar Suleiman offered the MB leadership recognition and release from prison of their senior leaders, Deputy Supreme Guide Khairat El-Shater and businessman Hasan Malek in exchange for withdrawing their ranks from the streets, they agreed. Meanwhile, the revolutionaries, including MB youth groups and other rivals within the MB leadership at the time such as Dr. Abdel Moneim Abol Fotouh, refused to leave Tahrir Square and openly defied the proposition. The attack by the goons of the former regime the following day in the Battle of the Camel forced the leadership to change course and that agreement became moot.

For almost a year since the SCAF took power in February 2011, a tacit honeymoon between the two strongest centers of power in the country evolved for different reasons. On the one hand, the MB did not want to experience a repeat of their 1954 showdown with the military that ended in their ban and imprisonment. Confident in their ability to win contested democratic elections, they overlooked all the attempts by SCAF to frustrate fulfilling the objectives of the revolution, particularly with regard to holding corruption investigations and trials, or banishment of former regime loyalists in the government.

On the eve of the triumph of the revolution on Feb. 10, 2011 the MB senior leadership body of about 120 members met for the first time in years and announced they would not seek more than 30-40 percent of seats in a new parliament and that they would not field a presidential candidate. They gave assurances to anxious civil society groups and nervous international powers that they simply wanted to be one of the participants in governing the country and that they did not want to face similar sanctions Hamas had to contend with in Gaza after winning the 2006 elections.

Throughout 2011, the main strategy of the MB and its affiliated FJP was to manage a close coordination or at least a friendly and cordial relationship with SCAF in order not to give the military any pretext to postpone or cancel the parliamentary elections. But with the elections approaching, the pledge not to field more than 30-40 percent evaporated and the group fielded close to 100 percent of the candidates, winning an impressive result as it won almost 47 percent of 498 elected members in the lower house (People’s Assembly) and 55 percent of 180 elected members of the upper house (the Shura Council).

Meanwhile, since taking the reign of power SCAF has had three main objectives that they wanted to secure before turning over control to a future civilian government. Since the 1979 peace treaty with Israel, the military has quietly acquired a substantial stake of the Egyptian economy, estimated by experts to be between 25-35 percent, comprising many sectors including agriculture, industry, real estate, and energy. This control allowed many generals and senior military leaders, as well as their families, to enjoy extreme wealth without any transparency or public accountability. No one in government, let alone parliament or the public, knows the extent of their holdings, who has control over it, or how it is being spent. Unsurprisingly, SCAF justifies the concealment and control of these public resources in the name of national security.

Secondly, the military has desperately sought blanket immunity from prosecution or accountability for anything it has done in the past, especially with regards to financial corruption. But no one actually knows what the immunity would entail, though it is suspected that massive wealth and corruption could be uncovered once senior military leaders retire or disappear from the scene. Finally, the military wants to obtain a special status in the constitution that allows it to control its budget without civilian oversight, and enjoy veto power in strategic policy areas, including foreign relations and decisions of war and peace.

SCAF calculated shortly after the fall of the regime that the easiest way to achieve its main objectives was by reaching a tacit understanding on these matters with the MB, the largest organized political group. When SCAF inserted these provisions in the so-called supra-constitutional document last November, the MB along with most political opposition groups rejected this document in a massive showing of public protests that forced the collapse of the government and the withdrawal of the document.

Meanwhile, SCAF prevented the FJP, the MB affiliated majority party in parliament, from forming a new government after the elections, while appointing a government headed by Mubarak’s former Prime Minister, Dr. Kamal El-Ganzouri. With worsening conditions of the economic and security situation in the country, the public was blaming the MB for not delivering on their promises of good governance, while the Brotherhood complained that SCAF did not allow it to form a government.

But the primary purpose of the elected parliament was to elect one hundred people to form the constitutional writing committee. Instead of holding countrywide discussions with all political parties and civil society groups on the criteria for committee membership, the FJP held bilateral talks with the Salafist Noor party reaching an agreement that appointed to the constitutional committee fifty members from parliament, which is dominated by Islamists. In the end the total Islamists appointed to the committee comprised two-thirds (super majority) of total membership and were dominated by members or supporters of the MB. Not only liberal and leftist parties as well as revolutionary groups were incensed, but even religious entities and civil society groups including Al-Azhar, the Coptic Church, opposition parties, labor unions, and the Supreme Court, were upset and withdrew their members from the committee. Predictably, all condemned the policy of exclusion that the MB promised it would not pursue. Eventually, the High Administrative Court invalidated the committee and the parties are now back in discussions to devise new criteria after the FJP conceded its high-handed tactics and did not appeal the ruling.

Nevertheless, by late February, the FJP felt empowered and confident with its electoral gains. The speaker of the Assembly and the president of the Shura Council as well as the chairs of the major committees were all MB members. They were also in charge of appointing the constitution writing committee. So they demanded from SCAF that they lead a coalition government. A tense meeting between both parties took place in early March. The military was upset because of the way the MB formed the constitution committee and for their adamant opposition to the special status for the military in the new constitution. During the meeting, the generals played hardball. They told the Brotherhood’s leadership that not only would they be denied the opportunity to form a government, but they would also not be allowed to control any key ministries including foreign, interior, finance, and justice. They also hinted that the decision to dissolve the new elected parliament that the FJP dominated was near if they did not cooperate and withdrew their motion to dissolve the government. In short, a test of wills was in play.

For the first time since SCAF took the reigns of power, the MB decided to seriously challenge it. Within a few days, the MB released a fiery statement that attacked the military in unprecedented fashion, accusing it of thwarting the revolution and blackmailing the group, and warned the public that SCAF might rig the upcoming presidential elections. By the following day, SCAF issued its own harsh response denying all accusations and warning the MB, in a thinly veiled threat not to forget the lessons of their past and avoid repetition of their mistakes, in an oblique reference to the 1954 confrontation between the two sides.

Soon after the Shura Council of the MB, their highest decision-making body that usually meets twice a year, uncharacteristically met twice in one week to decide their next step. In response to the SCAF challenge, the Guidance Council, the MB executive body, proposed that they change course and field a presidential candidate. A contentious discussion ensued where 52 of the 65 members attending the meeting objected, fearing that violating their one-year old pledge against fielding a candidate would further erode their credibility with the public. The Supreme Guide, Dr. Muhammad Badie’ adjourned the meeting and called for another within a few days. In the following meeting, 43 more members attended and all voted in favor of fielding a candidate, thus jumping the final count from 13 to 56 against 52. Their candidate was the Deputy Supreme Guide Khairat El-Shater, an engineer by education and a businessman by profession. But more importantly he is a charismatic leader who was not only in charge of the so-called Renaissance Project within the group, but who also controlled the most important components within the group including organization, finance, and media.

The U.S. and the Muslim Brotherhood

 Mustafa Al-Fiqi was one of the most important political thinkers of the Mubarak regime. During the intense debate in 2009 and 2010 regarding the candidacy of Gamal Mubarak to succeed his father, Al-Fiqi said that the most crucial criteria for the next president was acquiring the blessing of America and avoiding a veto by Israel. This idea was not lost on the MB. When they announced in Feb. 2011 that they would not contest the presidential elections, their justification was that they did not want to cause anxiety in secular circles or concern in Western capitals.

As Western officials flocked to Egypt throughout the year, the MB headquarters was always one of the most important places visited by these officials. When Deputy Secretary of State William Burns visited Egypt in January, he met with top MB leaders Badie’ and El-Shater. During the meeting the MB leadership gauged America’s red lines. Assuming power by the MB was not one of them. Burns’ main concern was the fate of the peace treaty with Israel. According to a person familiar with the meeting with the U.S. official, Burns offered that “the good offices of the U.S. would help Egypt secure as much as $20 Billion” from the Arab Gulf states as well as from other international organizations such as the IMF if the MB would maintain the peace treaty with Israel. Although the MB leaders were non-committal, they indicated that their main concern was the shattered economy and the rebuilding of Egypt. In mid-February Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham met with El-Shater and other FJP leaders and essentially delivered the same message.

By the time the MB leadership decided to field a candidate after their clash with SCAF, its main concern with regard to Western reaction had already been put at ease. As El-Shater became the official candidate for the MB, he sent in late March a delegation to Washington that featured four MB officials including a member of parliament and a senior advisor. In effect, their main purpose was to determine the administration’s reaction to the candidacy of El-Shater. Although the delegation members were neither senior party leaders nor officials of the Egyptian government, they were met by the highest officials in Washington. They met twice at the State Department with senior administration officials including Burns and Jeffrey Feltman, the top State Department official on the Middle East. They also met at the White House with National Security Council staff Samantha Power and Steven Simon. While they were at the White House meeting, President Obama dropped in and dazzled his Egyptian guests.

Once again the talks centered on the future of the peace treaty with Israel and Egypt’s economic needs. This time the delegation promised that the MB had no plans to cancel or alter the peace treaty but that they would end the blockade and sanctions on Gaza. During the meetings the Americans repeatedly raised concerns about policies with regard to women and the Christian Copts. At one point the MB delegation responded by raising their concerns about the ill treatment of American Muslims after 9/11. The Americans immediately cut them off and told them that this issue was “none of their business.”

In essence, both parties felt comfortable with each other and were satisfied with the results of their discussions as the U.S. attempted to recalibrate the nature of the relationship with its former client state. Not to be outdone, neocon Randy Scheunemann, McCain’s top foreign policy advisor in 2008, and the current undeclared senior advisor to Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee, met secretly with the MB delegation, essentially raising the same concerns and receiving the same assurances.

Egypt’s presidential race

 Between March 10 and April 8, Egypt’s Judicial Committee for Presidential Elections started receiving the applications for candidates running for the presidency. To qualify, each candidate had to satisfy certain criteria including proof of age and Egyptian citizenship, not only of the candidate but also of his parents and spouse. In addition, there were three ways for any candidate to become viable: a) collecting at least 30 signatures from members of parliament, b) becoming the official candidate of a political party provided that the party has at least one seat in parliament, or c) collecting at least 30,000 notarized signatures from a minimum of 15 provinces with at least 1000 signatures from each province.

Within four weeks, 23 candidates submitted their papers, claiming to have satisfied the criteria to become an official candidate. This slate of candidates had actually represented the diverse Egyptian political electorate, ranging from the ultra conservative to the radical leftist and Mubarak regime’s loyalist. The MB fielded Deputy Supreme Guide El-Shater as its official candidate with less than a week before the end of the nominating process. To qualify he submitted signatures by 277 MB members of parliament.

At that time it was not clear what candidate SCAF might support. Before the dispute with SCAF was made public, many observers thought that a deal might have been struck with the military to support El-Shater in exchange for the secure exit guarantees SCAF was seeking. But within days, rumors started circulating that former vice president Suleiman was about to run for president as the military’s response to El-Shater’s candidacy. On April 4 Suleiman issued a statement announcing that he would not be a candidate. Yet, within 48 hours he reversed himself and submitted 43,000 signatures to the Elections Committee twenty minutes before the closing of the nominations. Not since the success of the revolution have the fulool felt empowered and the revolutionaries became dispirited and divided.

Egyptians across the political spectrum were shocked and outraged that Mubarak’s intelligence chief and most loyal underling would have the audacity to run for president in order to “fulfill the objectives of the revolution” as he shamelessly declared. They felt insulted and appalled. Many asserted that as pro-revolution groups were divided along ideological lines, the fulool (former regime remnants) and SCAF were now regrouping and organizing themselves to mount a counter-revolution. The signatures in support of Suleiman’s candidacy were collected within 48 hours, an impossible task if it was not for many government agencies and officials pressuring public employees and army recruits, and mobilizing their resources to facilitate it.

Within days the parliament passed a law barring former Mubarak senior officials from running in any elections for ten years due to their role in corrupting politics during the former regime. If signed by SCAF, this law would effectively ban not only Suleiman but another official candidate who was Mubarak’s last Prime Minister, Ahmad Shafiq, also a former military general.  In order to play for time, SCAF sent the law to the Constitutional Supreme Court asking for an advisory opinion hoping to delay the decision until it would be too late to disqualify the fulool candidates. But the court immediately ruled that it had no jurisdiction on the matter. SCAF is now forced to show its cards, it could no longer hide behind any political group or the courts.

As they sensed the grave threat Suleiman’s candidacy paused against the revolution, all political parties and groups called for massive demonstrations in the two successive Fridays against the fulool candidates represented not only by Suleiman and Shafiq but also by two former intelligence officers and former foreign minister Amr Mousa. Hundreds of thousands flocked to Tahrir Square and across the country in a show of unity reminiscent of the early days of the revolution. The protesters rejected the fulool candidates and called for the end of military rule.

Meanwhile, the Presidential Committee evaluated the applications of the candidates and disqualified 10 candidates out of the declared 23. Most surprisingly, it disqualified El-Shater, Suleiman, Ayman Noor, a liberal and a former presidential contender that ran against Mubarak in the 2005 elections, as well as the charismatic Salafi candidate, fiery preacher and civil rights attorney Hazem Salah Abu Ismail. The committee reasoned that each candidate was disqualified because they lacked one or more conditions. Abu Ismail was disqualified because his mother attained U.S. citizenship before she died in 2010. The candidate claimed that the U.S. forged the citizenship documents and thus it was opposed to his candidacy because he called for the implementation of Shari’a law and took a hard stand against the peace treaty with Israel and American foreign policy in the Muslim world. Although the U.S. as well as many secular Egyptians were indeed concerned about his candidacy and popularity, it was clear that his mother had indeed obtained American citizenship in 2006, acquired a U.S. passport, as well as registered to vote in Los Angeles County.

The committee also disqualified the candidacy of El-Shater and Noor on the pretext that they were convicted of crimes during the Mubarak regime, though in widely condemned political show trials. According to Egyptian law, a convict loses his political rights unless restored through full presidential pardon or by the courts. Although SCAF issued pardons to both candidates the committee claimed that they still lacked the requirement of restoring their political rights that could only be obtained by the courts six years after the pardon is issued or by the invalidation of the charges. Perhaps most surprisingly, the committee also disqualified Suleiman by charging that some of the signatures submitted by him were forgeries. The other six disqualifications were minor candidates, including two former intelligence generals. They were excluded for violating one or more conditions. Although the committee allowed the candidates to appeal its decisions, it eventually rejected all appeals and reaffirmed its disqualification of their candidacies.

Naturally the MB and El-Shater were outraged and charged that the Suleiman’s candidacy was a ruse, a farce, and a clumsy attempt by SCAF to disqualify the MB official candidate without causing public outrage since the public would feel relief after the disqualification of Suleiman. They also charged that the real SCAF candidates were now revealed. They are Prime Minister Shafiq and former foreign minister Amr Mousa; both allowed to contest the elections. Not to be out-maneuvered, the MB feared that their official candidate, El-Shater, might be disqualified so on the last day of the nominations it too fielded a back-up candidate, FJP chairman, Dr. Muhammad Mursi. The new MB candidate received a Ph.D. in 1982 in engineering from southern California, and worked as an academic in the U.S. and later in Egypt for decades before being elected to parliament in the 2005 elections.

So who are the final official candidates?

 One can classify the remaining 13 candidates that might appear on the ballot into different groupings as follows:

 a) The Islamically-oriented candidates: There are three candidates that belong to this group.

1)    Dr. Abdulmoneim Abol Fotouh, 60, a medical doctor by training, and the head of the Arab Medical Union, a pan-Arab medical association focused on relief work. He is also a former MB leader who broke away from the group last year after announcing his candidacy. Abol Fotouh was qualified as an independent candidate after collecting over 43,000 notarized signatures. He is well known to the public since his days as a former student leader who challenged former president Anwar Sadat in 1977. In that confrontation, which aired on live television at the time, Abol Fotouh accused Sadat’s advisors of being hypocrites and corrupt. The former president, not accustomed to public criticism became angry and tried to intimidate and silence him but Abol Fotouh stood his ground, gaining many admirers. He later spent several years in prison for his political activism during the Sadat and Mubarak regimes. He is not only popular within the Islamic circles, but also among many segments of Egyptian society including liberals, leftists, and Copts. He is also known for his moderate views. With the elimination of Abu Ismail, it is expected that he would get a substantial vote from that conservative constituency as well as from many other revolutionary and anti-Mubarak regime constituents.

2)    Dr. Muhammad Mursi, 60, is the low-key and uncharismatic back-up MB candidate. He was qualified as the official FJP candidate in lieu of being the head of the party. Mursi would most likely garner the majority of the MB vote but it is not clear how much support he would attract outside that constituency in light of the controversial decision by the MB to reverse its decision and field a candidate, as well as their mishandling of the appointment of the constitutional assembly. Many observers believe that if Mursi wins he would share power with El-Shater as Prime Minister similar to the arrangement in recent years in Russia between Medvedev and Putin, with the latter being the power behind the throne.

3)    Dr. Muhammad Salim Al-Awwa, 71, a well-known constitutional scholar and Islamic intellectual. He was qualified by collecting 30 signatures from members of parliament. Although Al-Awwa is well respected by many Egyptian intellectuals and elites, he does not have large following among the grass roots revolutionaries or common Egyptians to have a realistic chance of getting enough support to go to the second round.

b) The fulool-supported candidates: There are two candidates that fit this group.

1)    Ahmad Shafiq, 71, is the former Prime Minister appointed by Mubarak just twelve days before he was ousted. He is considered a Mubarak loyalist and likely has the support of the fulool business class and the counter-revolutionary forces within the security apparatus as well as many segments within the government, still largely run by former Mubarak loyalists.

2)    Amr Mousa, 76, served as foreign minister under Mubarak for over a decade. He also served for another decade as Secretary General of the Arab League. He is considered very popular among common Egyptians because at times he was critical of Israeli policy towards the Palestinians while Mubarak was following the dictates of the U.S. and Israel. His critics charge that he was an integral part of the Mubarak regime and was on record in 2010 of supporting the deposed president for another term.

c) Leftist and nationalist candidates: There are four candidates that belong to this group, but none are considered likely to finish among the top two contenders in the first round of the elections. The most prominent among this group is Hamdein Sabbahi, 59. He is a former journalist and is considered among the most respected Nasserite in the country. He collected more than 30,000 signatures and thus qualified as an independent candidate. Another candidate is labor union organizer and civil rights attorney Khaled Ali, 41, the youngest among all presidential candidates. He was qualified by garnering the support of 32 members of parliament. He is articulate and considered by many youth groups as the most authentic revolutionary candidate. Yet his chances are very slim because he is not well known outside the labor unions and activist circles. The two other candidates are former Judge Hisham Bastawisi and political veteran Abol-Izz Al-Hariri. They represent minor leftist groups and are also considered extremely unlikely to receive large support.

d) The remaining four candidates represent minor parties. They are virtually unknown to the public and are unlikely to receive any meaningful support.

The Presidential Elections Scenarios

 The first round of the presidential race is scheduled for May 23 and 24. If no candidate receives more than fifty percent of the vote, then a run-off between the top two contenders would take place on June 16 and 17. Most experts predict that absent massive elections’ fraud sanctioned by the military and ignored by the Elections Committee, no candidate would actually receive a majority after the first round.

Since there are no reliable polls in Egypt, it is not clear what the popularity or electability of each candidate might be. Prior to the parliamentary elections, most polls were widely inaccurate. For instance, the quasi-governmental Al-Ahram sponsored poll predicted prior to the parliamentary elections last November that the FJP and the Wafd parties would each receive 30 percent of the votes, while the Noor party would receive less than 10 percent. In the end, the FJP, Noor and Wafd received 47, 25, and 10 percent respectively, a whopping difference of over 15 points from each prediction.

So what are the most likely scenarios?

Scenario 1: The top two finishers belong to the Islamist camp. In this scenario the two final contenders would be the independent Abol Fotouh and the MB candidate Mursi. In such a two-man race, the majority of Egyptians would likely vote for the independent candidate over the MB contender out of fear of concentrating all political power in the hands of a single political party.

Scenario 2: One of the top two finishers is from the Islamist candidates while the other belong to the fulool. In this scenario the fulool candidate would be Amr Mousa facing either Abol Fotouh or Mursi. In such two-man race in the second round the Islamist candidate would most likely win over Mousa, since a majority of Egyptians consider Mousa as part of Mubarak’s underlings.

Scenario 3: The Elections Committee declares that top two contenders are from the fulools. This scenario is very unlikely and would only come to pass if through low voter turnout (very unlikely), while massive fraud for the benefit of Shafiq occurs undetected (also unlikely), followed by a muted electorate (extremely unlikely). As unlikely as this scenario might be, many political observers are concerned that this might be SCAF’s endgame since both candidates are acceptable to the military.

Many political observers are concerned that the decision of who the next president might be is determined by the five-member Elections Committee and cannot be appealed. Critics point out that the head of the committee was an obscure judge appointed by Mubarak to oversee his son’s succession. His deputy is the infamous judge that interfered in the judicial process overseeing the recent charges of illegal foreign financing of political groups and civil rights advocates, and secured the pre-trial release and flight from the country of the Americans accused in that case.  Critics charge that he is susceptible to pressure from SCAF, which in that case was under tremendous pressure from U.S. officials to free the Americans.

Scenario 4: The youth and revolutionary groups have identified six candidates that have revolutionary credentials and are acceptable to them. They are Abol Fotouh and Al-Awwa from the Islamist camp, and Sabbbahi, Ali, Bastawisi, and Al-Hariri from the secular camp. Although Mursi is not considered part of the unacceptable fulools, these groups have demanded that the MB withdraw its candidate so as not to polarize the country if the MB ends up monopolizing all positions of power.

In this scenario, several candidates favored by the revolutionary groups would withdraw in favor of a single candidate so as not to splinter the votes among them. Two or three of these candidates would run on one presidential ticket as a president with one or several vice presidents. In all the different proposals circulated by the different groups, all agree that among all the candidates Abol Fotouh would be the consensus candidate to lead this ticket. If such a presidential ticket is eventually formed and the MB candidate actually withdraws (very unlikely), then such a ticket might actually receive more than fifty percent of the vote in the first round, making Abol Fotouh the first president of post-Mubarak’s Egypt.

Although in the parliamentary elections, 27 million Egyptians went to the polls, it is estimated that 35-40 million Egyptians out of the 45 million eligible voters may actually participate. But it is also difficult to predict whom the 8-13 million new voters would actually support. However, judging by the parliamentary elections, over seventy percent of Egyptians voted for an Islamist party or candidate, while twenty percent voted for a liberal or leftist candidate. Less than 3 percent actually voted for a fulool candidate.

Ultimately the real questions awaiting this process are: Would SCAF honor its pledge not to interfere in the elections and hand over power to a newly elected president? Would the new president of Egypt be the independent Abol Fotouh, thus starting a new dawn for a new Egypt? Or would it be Mursi, the MB candidate, consolidating the ascendance of power of the Brotherhood with possible political polarization in the country? Or would it be Mubarak-era loyalists Amr Mousa or even Ahmad Shafiq, thus returning Egypt back to square one, and unleashing a second revolution?

The answer to these questions by the Egyptian electorate in the next few weeks will certainly determine the future of post-revolutionary Egypt.

Esam Al-Amin can be contacted at

Esam Al-Amin is the author of The Arab Awakening Unveiled: Understanding Transformations and Revolutions in the Middle East. He can be contacted at