Disqualifications narrow Egypt race to the Islamist and the ‘Felool’
With the elections six weeks away, two candidates have emerged as
favorites after ten others are disqualified.
Thousands of Islamists packed Tahrir Square last
Friday for the first time in nearly five months.
The Muslim Brotherhood and the conservative Salafis
had stayed off the streets since dominating parliamentary
elections late last year.
But with presidential elections six weeks away, both
Islamist groups filled Tahrir in a show of force.
Muslim Brothers lobbied for their candidate, Khairat Al-
Shater, while the Salafis pushed for their favored choice,
Hazem Salah Abu Ismael.
Both groups gathered to denounce the candidacy of Omar
Suleiman, the shadowy former intelligence chief under
ousted leader Hosni Mubarak.
In the end, all three presidential hopefuls are now officially
out of contention.
On TUESDAY, the Egyptian Presidential Elections
Commission CONFIRMED THE DISQUALIFICATION
OF 10 candidates, including the two Islamists and
Out of the fray, this man is emerging as one of the new
favorites to be Egyptâ€™s next president.
500 miles south of Cairo and far from the political tumult,
Dr. Abdel Moneim Abol Fotoh campaigned in this small
Upper Egyptian city in relative obscurity.
A moderate Islamist who appeals to so-called Liberals
and Seculars, Abol Fotoh has flown under the radar of the
But boosted by a campaign driven by thousands of young
volunteers, and aided by the disqualifications of his leading
competitors, Abol Fotoh has quickly become one of the
frontrunners in what could be Egyptâ€™s first free and fair
SOT2: There are liberals who support him. Islamists
endorse him. Lots of political parties are supporting
Dr. Abdel Moneim Abol Fotoh. There is no certain
ideology for people to follow him. He’s not like the
Muslim Brotherhood or the Salafis.
VO3: A 60-year-old physician, Abol Fotoh was one of the
most prominent members of the Muslim Brotherhood.
But in the last decade, his socially progressive views and
calls to make the Muslim Brotherhood more democratic
made him enemies among the groupâ€™s leadership.
Shortly after the ouster of Hosni Mubarak, Abol Fotoh
defied a Brotherhood dictum NOT TO SEEK THE
PRESIDENCY, AND DECLARED HIS CANDIDACY
INDEPENDENT OF THE ORGANIZATION.
The Muslim Brotherhood hierarchy expelled HIM from the
But Abol Fotohâ€™s REMOVAL from the Brotherhood only
bolstered his reputation among many Egyptians, who have
become disillusioned with the organizationâ€™s cooperation
with the ruling military regime.
Abol Fotoh is arguably the only candidate with a chance of
winning the election who can claim to represent the youth
at the forefront of the Egyptian Revolution.
Even many Ultras, the militant soccer fans who have led
street protests since being brutally attacked at a match in
Port Said two months ago, have declared their support for
SOT3: We support Dr. Abdel Moneim because he
was the first person after the Port Said massacre.
He was the first one there and stood by people trying
to ease their pain. Although he doesnâ€™t have any
authority or anything, he stood by the Ultras and
visited the families. He did all this as an Egyptian
citizen even though he is not president yet.
VO4: ABOL FOTOH has promised that his vice-president
would be less than 45 years old as would be 50 percent of
the members of his administration.
But Abol Fotohâ€™s BASE EXTENDS BEYOND Egyptâ€™s
Here in upper Egypt, while there may be little media
coverage, Abol Fotoh is mobbed in the street and
thousands turn up for his speeches.
His impeccable Islamist credentials have won him support
among the urban poor and rural population, despite the
Brotherhoodâ€™s opposition to his candidacy.
In contrast to THE BROTHERHOOD LEADERSHIP
AND TO OTHER high-profile POLITICIANS, since the
revolution, ABOL FOTOH has consistently stood by anti-
government street protests while DENOUNCING abuses
of the Military Council.
HE HAS PLEDGED CIVILIAN OVERSIGHT OF THE
ARMED FORCES, AND HAS DEMANDED RETRIALS
FOR THOUSANDS OF CIVILIANS SENTENCED IN
MILITARY TRIBUNALS. Abol Fotoh has promised
to overhaul Egyptâ€™s notorious Interior Ministry and end
impunity for former officials of the Mubarak regime, AS
WELL AS FOR members of the ruling military junta.
SOT1: Who robbed us of our wealth? Wasn’t it under
their control? The billions that were stolen. Who killed
our sons? Didn’t they do it? Wasn’t that their plan?
Who made the state security break into your homes
in Upper Egypt, intimidate women and terrify the
children, just so they can arrest an upper Egyptian
VO: WHEN NEWS reaches the makeshift speaking hall
that Mubarakâ€™s feared former spy chief Omar Suleiman
is banned from the race, THE CROWD CHEERSâ€¦AND
ABOL FOTOH RESPONDS.
SOT1: Omar Suleiman is out! He just got excluded,
he was excluded just now. God is Great! The
signatures are forged. All of them are!
SOT2: Down with all the remnants of the old regime!
Down with Mubarak’s entire regime! The heads were
removed, but its roots still exist in the government.
And they are still running the security apparatus. So
they will be brought down, God willing. We will bring
them down, God willing.
VO: Itâ€™s not the first time Abol Fotoh has attacked Egyptâ€™s
In 1977, he famously angered then President Anwar
Sadat by criticizing his administration during a public
appearance, a bold breach of protocol that could have led
to his arrest or worse.
As it turns out, Abol Fotoh would be imprisoned for his
political activities three times in the next three decades.
In 1981, under Answer Sadat, he was jailed FOR TWO
MONTHS as part of a CRACKDOWN ON ISLAMISTS.
AND UNDER HOSNI MUBARAK, ABOL FOTOH
WAS A POLITICAL PRISONER FOR FIVE YEARS
BEGINNING IN 1996 AND FOR ANOTHER FIVE
MONTHS IN 2009
EVER self-effacing, ABOL FOTOH rarely talks about his
experience in prison.
BUT HE DOES NOT HOLD BACK WHEN
CRITICIZING US POLICY IN THE REGION.
HE HAS QUESTIONED EGYPTâ€™S RELIANCE ON
US AID AND HE HAS VOWED TO OPEN THE
EGYPTIAN BORDER WITH GAZA.
SOT: The reason for the biggest financial disaster in
the United States, in the last two to three years, are
the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that they can’t get
out of. And the new regime in the U.S. realized the
folly of that idiot named Bush. They realized how he
the U.S. in a huge financial crisis. but they hardly
seem to be trying to get out of it.
VO: While other candidates are both loved and hated
depending on the demographic, Abol Fotoh has managed
to be all things to all peopleâ€¦
And he HAS ASSEMBLED an eclectic team to run his
His CAMPAIGN MANAGER works for the multinational
company 3M and his political advisor is a leftist academic.
And unlike other Islamist candidates, Abol Fotohâ€™s
campaign has attracted A LARGE NUMBER OF women
AND Coptic Christians to its ranks.
SOT1: It’s Abol Fotoh or nothing. And I’m a Christian
and we want him. Because he brings together
Christians and Muslims.
VO1: In Edfu, Abol Fotoh visited doctors and
lawyersâ€¦but he spent half the day talking with workers at
SOT1: We see that you are an Islamist man, a
moderate man, a liberal man, a man for all Egyptians.
We have seen this since the beginning of your
campaign on television. And everyone sees this. –
God bless you, brother. And God willing you win.
VO1: THE FLOUNDERING EGYPTIAN ECONOMY
IS AT THE HEART OF THE PRESIDENTIAL RACE,
EVEN IN TOURIST DESTINATIONS LIKE LUXOR,
WHERE ABOL FOTOH CAMPAIGNED ON SUNDAY.
PEOPLE HERE COMPLAIN OF A LACK OF JOBS
AND WORSENING LIVING CONDITIONS.
Abol Fotoh HAS MADE education and health care the
pillars of his domestic PLATFORM, pledging to multiply
the budgets for both.
Economic and social hardship was at the root of the
revolution as much as a desire for civil and political rights,
and Abol Fotohâ€™s social justice platform has resonated
with many Egyptians.
SOT1: Where are my rights? I want my rights. I want
my friends to obtain theirs too. And the slums, where
the poor conditions are heartbreaking, while others
have billions and trillions.
VO: While Abol Fotohâ€™s prospects are stronger than ever,
the electoral road ahead is uncertain and unpredictable.
Abol Fotoh still lacks the name recognition of other
leading candidates and he does not have the organized and
expansive support base such as that commanded by the
And nobody is discounting the possibility of fraud or other
intervention by the military council.
Stand-Up: With Omar Suleiman, Hazem Salah Abu
Ismael, and Khairat Al-Shater out of the race, three other
candidates appear to pose the biggest challenges to Abdel
Moneim Abol Fotoh.
Ahmed Shafiq, a former air force commander and prime
minister under Mubarak.
And Mohammed Mursi, the Muslim Brotherhoodâ€™s back-
Amr Moussa, former Arab League secretary general and
foreign minister under Hosni Mubarak who has tried to
distance himself from the former regime.
Amr Mousa officially launched is campaign on Wednesday
in a slum on the OUTSKIRTS OF Cairo.
MOUSSA IS A HOUSEHOLD NAME SINCE HIS DAYS
AS MUBARAKâ€™S FOREIGN MINISTER.
HIS CAMPAIGN IS WELL-FUNDED AND HAS NO
LACK OF MEDIA COVERAGE.
For more than a year, Moussa has been picked as a favorite
to win the election, and at least one poll gives him a
VO: BUT WHILE Moussa HAS TRIED TO DISTANCE
HIMSELF FROM MUBARAK, MANY EGYPTIANS
STILL SEE HIM AS A FELOOL, OR REMNANT, OF
THE OLD REGIME.
SOT: Amr Moussa came today to our neighborhood,
to our slum. He came to mock us, laugh at us. We
want to tell him…He comes here, after 30 years of
never seeing a neighborhood like this, he comes here
to mock people for the sake of the presidency. Where
was he before? And this guy Amr Moussa, isn’t he
from the old regime? Wasn’t he foreign minister?
And then head of the Arab league? Isn’t he a "felool"
VO: If no candidate wins MORE THAN 50 PERCENT
OF THE VOTE IN THE FIRST ROUND ELECTION
SLATED FOR MAY 23 AND MAY 24, A SECOND
ROUND OF BALLOTING BETWEEN THE TOP TWO
CONTENDERS IS SCHEDULED FOR JUNE 16 AND
Reed Lindsay, for The Real News Network, in Cairo,