Over 900 candidates submitted their official papers in the hopes of becoming Egypt’s next president. Yes, the basket of hopefuls was bountiful; many were genuinely ready to become Egypt’s next president; while some did it for the fun of it (Saad El Sogheir), and others used the application process as a campaigning moment (Abou Ismail), some were keen enough to be validated, but they didn't receive the necessary support (Buthaina Kamel).
Still, at the end of the day, 23 candidates managed to collect then submit enough signatures to qualify for this prestigious job of leading Egypt. The weeding process had begun, but in the next few weeks, it is quite likely that we will see many significant twists and turns.
Hazim Abou Ismail’s mother dual citizenship remains a thorn in his side. Today, though, the court has declared that his mother died an Egyptian and had no other citizenship. Khairat El Shater, the Ikhwan (Muslim Brotherhood) favorite who has just been released from prison, hasn’t received full pardon yet, same as Aymen Nour, the other ex-inmate. According to the constitution, timing is of the essence here—a six-year period after the pardon is necessary, so both may not qualify. This is why, the just-in-case MB candidate, Mohammed Morsi, is waiting backstage to replace El Shater if the latter is disqualified.
But the religious hopefuls don’t stop there: Abou El Fetouh and El Awa are definitely in the race, but talk to many Egyptians now, and they will tell you that they have lost faith in the Ikhwan (Muslim Brotherhood)—in fact, after the Ikhwan’s change of heart and the blow they gave Egyptians by having Shater run for the presidency, Egyptians were devastated. Thus the tables turned somewhat against the Islamists. Polls this week say that the support for islamists is down from last week (57.6% to 42%). http://azzasedky.typepad.com/egypt/2012/04/ahram-online.html and http://azzasedky.typepad.com/egypt/2012/04/moussa-leads-presidential-race-at-315-but-576-of-egyptians-prefer-an-islamist-poll-presidential-elections-news-pres.html
On the other front, Mubarak’s “men” form a powerful cluster—Moussa, Shafik, and Suleiman. These hopefuls have worked alongside Mubarak at one point of their careers, and that is a stigma that in itself brands these candidates as traitors and cronies.
But the eyes seem to be focused on Suleiman in particular. The anti-Suleiman campaign is strong, for he has a stained background and his image on Facebook and Twitter is blood splattered.
Since the photo is not even taken in Egypt and its source unknown, I asked what the picture has to do with Omar Suleiman; the response was, “This is what Omar Suleiman will do to the revolutionists.” Though deceptive and highly imaginative, the photograph explains the sentiments of many Egyptians.
More importantly, Suleiman now has to defend his candidacy formally in a suit that requests barring him from running. And parliament is mulling over a bill that may forbid those who worked with the previous regime from running for the presidency.
Who is left? And what kind of following do the remaining candidates have? Not many, and not much.
The ramifications of a successful Islamic candidate are obvious. Abou Ismail is not an experienced politician, nor is El Shater. Both think that their religious background suffices. Disappointingly, where Egypt would go if a radical islamist is elected has a close resemblance to the dark ages. To this end result, many Egyptians will take to the street again.
Then if a Mubarak figure wins, this, too, may lead to disastrous unrest. The hatred towards Suleiman is clear and definite. Millions of Egyptians deem him an oppressor who practiced rendition and torture. Again, if Suleiman is elected, millions will end up on the street protesting again—a new revolution will be in the making.
The Islamists and the pro-Mubaraks are competing against one another; some may choose Suleiman to outbid the Islamists, and simultaneously, others will side with an Islamist to avoid Suleiman. Here is a cartoon the explicitly explains the current situation:"Don't elect satan to avoid the Ikhwan (Muslim Brotherhood); and don't elect the Ikhwan because they were the first to associate with satan and then they sold us in Tahrir: this is the correct message." The message here doesn't tell us whom to vote for though.
The optimistic scenario would be if Abou El Fetouh, a moderate Islamist, or Amr Moussa, a distant-from-Mubarak man wins. Maybe Egyptians will then come to accept one of them. But the bleak scenario would be if Abou Ismail or Suleiman wins. Then Egypt is back to square one, paying dearly.
In due course, the tables may turn, the scales may tilt, and candidates may drop from the race and others may gain followings—the future is unpredictable and tense, leading Egypt to an abysmal low or a triumphant up.
The history of modern Egypt, be it good or bad, is in the making.