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Egypt, elections: «Why many christians will vote for Amr Moussa»

maggio 23, 2012 Leone Grotti

Today and tomorrow egyptians cast their vote to elect for the first time in the history of the country the president. Kristen Chick, Cairo correspondent for Christian Science Monitor, tells tempi.it what’s going on.

Today and tomorrow egyptians are going to elect the president of the country for the first time in the history of Egypt. Kristen Chick, Cairo correspondent for Christian Science Monitor, tells tempi.it what is at stake in these polls and who is probably going to win.

What does the presidential elections mean for egyptian people?
For many Egyptians, the presidential elections are the most symbolic and tangible step toward a successful transition of power since the uprising. Since Mubarak fell, the situation has been very chaotic: the military has made many mistakes, there’s been so much violence, and no security and I think people hope that electing a president will bring some stability and better things for Egypt.

There are 13 candidates. Who are the favourites?
It’s difficult to say who the favorites are exactly, because there is very little reliable polling date here. But the front-runners seem to be Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, the former Muslim Brotherhood leader who was expelled from the group last year, and Amr Moussa, Mubarak’s former foreign minister. Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate, has not done very well in the polls, but I think he is a viable contender. Ahmed Shafiq, former head of the Air Force and Mubarak’s last prime minister, has also gotten a lot of attention. But it is difficult to imagine someone like Shafiq, who was so close to Mubarak, winning the election.

During the electoral campaign a lot have been said about Sharia. The Jurisprudence commission for rights and reform told muslims to vote for someone who wants to apply Sharia. Sharia is a leading theme in this presidential elections?
Sharia has been a theme of the elections. Most of the candidates have talked about it, and clerics have told people to vote for Islamist candidates who would apply it. But Mohamed Morsi, the Brotherhood’s candidate, has talked about it the most. At a rally in Cairo, he said many times that he will implement sharia. The speakers before him said he is the only candidate who will implement sharia, and implied that voters were following God’s will if they voted for Morsi. He has clearly turned to religious rhetoric to try to energize his base and secure more votes from the salafis.

What is the first criteria egyptians will use to choose the president?

Different Egyptians are using different criteria to make their choices. Some are using religion, some voters choose Morsi because they think he’s the most Islamic one. Others choose Moussa because they don’t want an Islamist candidate to win. Some are making choices based on who they think has the most experience, or who would do the best job. There are also some choosing out of fear, they don’t like any of the candidates, but they vote for one to keep a worse one from winning.

What are the main themes debated by candidates?
Most of the candidates have emphasized developing Egypt to allow the country to reach it’s true potential, after decades of neglect, corruption, and bureaucracy that held it back. So they talk about the economy, about creating jobs, improving education, etc. The other thing they talk about is the role of Islam in the state, for example Morsi dwells on implementing sharia, unlike candidates like Moussa.

Since there is no Constitution yet, it is unclear what a president could do, what will be his duties. That’s not a problem, how can one vote withouth knowing the role of the president?
It’s true that the president’s duties are not defined since the constitution has not been written yet. But I think many Egyptians don’t think about that. They consider this a detail that will be solved later, not something to worry about now.

There are signs that let one think that Scaf will hand over power after the elections?
I do think SCAF will hand over power, officially. It appears that the generals would like to stay behind the scenes, keeping control over the military and exerting political influence, but not actually governing the country. I think they will hand over power to a president, but they will reject civilian control over the military, and try to remain a key political player. The new president will likely have to accept this, as he won’t have enough power to challenge them. It will probably take many years to remove the military’s political role.

There is a candidate favoured by christians?
Many Christians seem to be voting for Amr Moussa or Ahmed Shafiq, because they are the non-Islamist candidates with the greatest chance of winning. Many Christians are terrified of what would happen if Morsi won, and also many are suspicious of Aboul Fotouh as well. So they give their votes to the candidates that promise to keep the Islamists at bay. Amr Moussa has tried to encourage Christians to vote for him by emphasizing that under his presidency, all Egyptians would be equal, no matter their religion. On his campaign posters, he has pictures of a mosque and a church side by side. I think many Christians will vote for him.

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