A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Monday, May 21, 2012

Amr Moussa: The Familiar Face

(My Internet connection is glitchy today so posting will be unpredictable. I may add more links to this post when the connection is stable.)

With the Egyptian Presidential vote beginning in only two days, the polls — of dubious reliability given the lack of a track record — continue to suggest that Abdel Moneim Abul’Futuh and Amr Moussa are front runners, but with some polls showing strong performances by Ahmad Shafiq and the Muslim Brotherhood’s Muhammad Morsi.  Moussa and Abu’l-Futuh virtually tied the expatriate vote, and Morsi did well among Egyptians in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf; Nasserist Hamdeen Sabahi ran better than expected.  It is hard to understand the polls showing Shafiq doing well since he has little visible support in the street, but he may surprise. He and Amr Moussa are often seen as the fallul candidates, the “remnants”  of the old regime; but in  Moussa’s case, that “remnant” may have the support to win. It still seems likely that Moussa and Abu’l-Futuh will face each other in a runoff, though no one really knows.

Why does Moussa apparently enjoy such popularity? After more than a year of instability, he offers a familiar face; particularly for those Egyptians who feel the revolutionary movement has destabilized the country. Having been shunted from the Foreign Ministry (where he served for the decade 1991-2001) to the Secretary-Generalship of the Arab League (where he served until last year), he is seen as someone who fell out with Mubarak, and who was not part of the Mubarak apparatus in its last, worst decade, yet who represents the old establishment, has a solid international reputation, and arguably the confidence of a broad range of Egyptians.

On the down side, Egypt's problems are mostly domestic; Moussa's expertise is foreign policy. He's 75, so after years dealing with the now-octagenarian Mubarak, he brings at best only marginally younger blood to the job. He or Shafiq seem to be the hopes of those who want a familiar face, though Shafiq seems to be too much the candidate of the Army and security services. That may make Moussa, if not inevitable, then the only alternative to an Islamist like Abu'l-Futuh or Morsi.

In this recent interview with Al-Ahram, subtitled in English, he discusses his candidacy.

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