I am in The Sunday Business Post (page 15 in print edition) again today reporting from the streets of Cairo- this time focused on the Egyptian Presidential election.
In a 1,000 word piece much has to be left out- but I’d like to think I touched on the essentials.
A few things that space constrained me from mentioning include the controversy surrounding the strongly religious Salafist candidate Hazem Salah Abu-Ismail. At present it looks like he may not be allowed to run, because his late mother held foreign citizenship (he denies this). Something that is not allowed under the election rules.
When I was walking through Dokki near the west bank of the Nile on Friday afternoon, I stumbled into a feeder protest of Hazem Salah Abu-Ismail's supporters, they were Tahrir bound. Young, male and very earnest- they smell a plot against their man, and their reaction to his expulsion, if it happens, from the race will be interesting.
It also seems odd that this is happening, as posters of the smiling face and big bushy beard of Abu-Ismail are literally everywhere in Cairo.-despite the fact that the campaign has yet to officially begin.
You can see his poster on taxis, shop windows, on lampposts, on derelict buildings. Egyptians have begun an Internet trend of superimposing Abu-Ismail’s head on photoshopped pictures. Thus he has appeared beside the men on the moon, on the KFC advert and on a picture hanging in the Obama White House.
There are millions of Salafists votes out there for the taking. It is not impossible to conceive that the Salafist candidate could make it into the second round runoff (there will be a second round runoff between the two leading candidates if, no candidate reaches 50% in the first round). But an ejection of Abu Ismail from the race at this stage would be a blow to their plans.
As I noted in the SBP article, the revolutionary movement has no clear candidate in this election- but amazingly now the counter revolution does. Omar Suleiman, Hosni Mubarak's long-time spy chief and at one point his Vice President, has entered the race for Egypt's presidential seat. It’s a bit like the ousted royal family, standing for election for the National Assembly in 1790s France, or remaining members of the Romanov clan standing for the Petrograd Soviet in 1918 or something.
Suleiman is very well known here and there are many people who wish the revolution had never happened, including people still in love with the former dictator. But he could not win... Could he?... Really?
In terms of numbers, it is difficult to make predictions especially since opinion polls have not been conducted since the Muslim Brotherhood and Suleiman entered the race.
But it is hard to see how the Brotherhood candidate fails to reach the second round- with his opponent most likely at this point to be Amr Moussa. (But this is very, very speculative. Do not head down to the bookies just yet).
This does not set the pulses of the liberal and revolutionary youth racing- and here is a rather depressed but interesting take on the election figures here by a leading liberal blogger (note this was before Brotherhood and Omar Suleiman entered the race).
However for all the understandable cynicism emanating from the revolutionary movement over this election- we have to remember, the next President unlike Mubarak, will be elected by, and will be in some sense answerable to, the people.
And that is not an insignificant achievement of this unfinished Egyptian revolution.