A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Egypt: The Last Week

It's now less than a week until the first round of voting in the Egyptian Presidential elections on May 23rd. Although there are many questions about the accuracy of polls (there isn't exactly a lot of precedent for competitive elections), it's pretty clear no candidate can win a majority in the first round, so a runoff will be required. (The expatriate vote will be announced tomorrow, giving us some clues, though some worry that knowing the expat results could tilt the elections.

It now appears that SCAF will issue a new "constitutional declaration" before the vote, so voters have some clue as to what powers the Presidency will have, since the constituent assembly is currently on hold.  But will such a declaration survive once a real assembly convenes? Could a President be elected with one set of powers only to see them taken away? Will a SCAF "declaration" keep the Presidency under the Army's eagle eye? Can you really hold an election when no one knows what power the post will have only a week before the vote? The mess created last year by the decision to hold elections before the constitution already created a Parliament whose powers are ambiguous at best. And now the Presidency?

Most of the commentary and some of the polls seem to feel that last week's debate helped Amr Moussa and that Moussa's attempts to portray Abdel Moneim Abu'l-Futuh as very much still an Islamist gained traction. Also curious is the apparent rising strength of Ahmad Shafiq, the most unrepentant "remnant" of the old regime still in the race since ‘Omar Suleiman's exclusion. But Shafiq's eligibility remains in litigation. Anyway, we hear that Amr Moussa's campaign is "in good spirits." I'll be posting on Moussa before the vote.

And if you haven't seen it already, Michael Wahid Hanna's "Mapping Egypt's Electorate" at Foreign Policy is worth a read.

I suspect the real battle will be the runoff, if one secularist (Moussa?) and one Islamist (Abu'l-Futuh) survive the first round, it will be seen as a showdown between two worldviews. The probability that the Muslim Brotherhood's second-choice candidate, Muhammad Morsi, has little chance will be interpreted as a defeat for the Brotherhood, but if Abu'l-Futuh makes it into the runoff, he is after all an ex-Brother, and Moussa has raised questions about the "ex-" part.

It should be an interesting week.

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