In Egypt’s historic presidential race, opinion polls place the oldest candidate with the most political experience far ahead of his 11 rivals.
Many opponents try to portray Amr Moussa as a holdover from the hated regime of Hosni Mubarak. Moussa was Egypt’s foreign minister under Mubarak and later the secretary-general of the Arab League.
Yet many voters believe he is the only candidate who can end the country’s growing insecurity and economic problems.
Moussa, 75, proudly recalls his disputes with Mubarak, who eventually pushed him out as Egypt’s foreign minister. Moussa also lauds the revolution that forced his former boss from power.
But he adds that the time has come for stability to be restored in Egypt. Moussa says he only plans to serve one term. That would be just long enough, he says, to get the country back on its feet again.
His campaign manager, Hisham Youssef, says supporters believe Moussa can help heal the growing political divisions here.
“He has been working on issues pertaining to reconciliation all over the Arab world for the last decade or two,” says Youssef. “So this is one of the reasons why he can be instrumental in trying to achieve the objective of reconciliation and healing at a time when Egypt needs that most.”
Appeals To Different Sectors
Moussa’s platform appealed to a wealthy industrialist crowd at a recent campaign event. He’s also found support among older, secular Egyptians and Coptic Christians, who believe he can curb the rising power of the Islamists who now control parliament.
The Islamists, in turn, warn pious Muslims that a vote for Moussa is a vote to revive the old regime.
Muslim Brotherhood supporters in the southern city of Aswan call Moussa a feloul, or remnant of the Mubarak era.
Moussa’s connection to Mubarak comes up time and again with Egyptians who oppose him. One is cinematographer and activist Mahmoud Hamed Mahmoud, who accuses Moussa of being complicit in the previous government’s corruption.
Critics Say He’ll Block Change
Youth groups who helped force Mubarak from power are also suspicious, says Khaled Fahmy, who chairs the history department at the American University in Cairo.
“I consider him to be a danger to the revolution. He will try and roll it back, not by arresting people as such, but by saying the revolution is over,” Fahmy says. “We cannot push forward with what really is the main issue, which is the deep state, the security apparatus, the way the military is dominating every aspect of the Egyptian administration.”
Moussa’s campaign manager, Youssef, says Moussa will tackle those issues, but slowly.
“Democracy is a process, and dealing with the army in a similar way as do mature democracies will take some time,” he says.
With just days to go until the voting begins May 23, Moussa remains firmly ahead in Egyptian opinion polls. His key rivals trail by at least 20 percentage points.
Moussa supporters like minibus driver Salem Abdel-Fattah believe he will end the country’s high unemployment. Other Egyptians laud his strong stance against Israel.
But Youssef says the candidate isn’t taking his lead for granted.
“It is the first time that we have elections in Egypt in a fair and a transparent way,” Youssef says. “We are having to try all kinds of things and learn as we go along.”