After 20 people died when a protest against the barring of a candidate for the presidential election turned violent and the ruling military council came forward to say that civilian rule would be handed over by the end of next month, is Egypt finally looking forward to quieter times?

On 23 and 24 May Egyptians will take to the polls to vote for their first president since Hosni Mubarak was ousted in the Revolution of 25 January. On the BBC website there’s a list of the 13 candidates, handily sorted into 3 groups: Former Regime Figures, Islamists and Independents, probably the easiest way to describe the choice Egyptians are making.

…a normalization of relations in return for Israel leaving the occupied territory…

The front runner is thought to be Amr Moussa, former secretary-general of the Arab League and former Egyptian foreign minister under the Mubarak regime. Amr Mousa and Ahmed Shafik, the former prime minister, are both trying their best to distance themselves from their Mubarak past, but this may be where their campaigns fall short. If it weren’t for his tainted days as foreign minister Amr Moussa would be the top candidate by far, with the longest and most distinguished political career.

Amr Moussa is one of the few candidates with sensible ideas about Israel, saying that recognition should be given by the Arab states as well as a normalization of relations in return for Israel leaving the occupied territory. This, unlike one of the leading independents, Hamdin Sabbahi, from the Nasserist al-Karamah Party, whose views on Israel are not quite so progressive.

…he’s only been out of prison for a year…

Of course, we can’t forget the Islamists, namely the Muslim Brotherhood, who have shown their prowess by winning the election in Tunisia. Now, though Islamist sounds like a scary word to many, the candidates falling into this category are all moderates: the liberal ex-Muslim brotherhood member Abdel Fotouh who describes his policies as having a “moderate Islamic reference”, and Mohammad Salim Al-Awa, another moderate Islamist who says he seeks “balanced” relations with the West and Israel.

One thing that should also be looked at is who isn’t on the ballot sheet? 23 people were submitted for candidacy, but only 13 are seen to be eligible. This includes the Muslim Brotherhood’s first choice, Khairat El-Shater, who was barred because he’s only been out of prison for a year, not the minimum 6 years the military government has said you need to run. Another disqualified candidate who could have been a front runner is Hazem Salah Abu Ismail, whose disqualification sparked the riots that claimed lives in Cairo. Abu Ismail is a Salafist Islamist and not the progressive type of leader the Egyptians need.

…you’ll be back to thinking about Sharm el-Sheikh

The fact that the vote is taking place is the victory. Once the Egyptians have made their choice that the country can finally take a step into normality again, away from the past dictatorship and away from the current unpopular military rule. Maybe in a year or so when someone mentions Egypt to you, you’ll be back to thinking about Sharm el-Sheikh and pyramids, not rioters.


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Grew up in the Middle East, currently studying Arabic and Linguistics in central London. Write a lot...

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