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After numerous delays, the dates for the presidential election in Egypt have now been set for 23-24 May 2012, with a run-off (if required) on 16-17 June, and final results are scheduled for announcement on 21 June. The office of President has been vacant since the resignation of Hosni Mubarak on 11 February 2011. Formal registration of candidacies begins this Saturday, 10 March, and will extend to 8 April; the complete list of candidates will be published on 26 April. What I would like to do in this diary, in the same spirit of my earlier two posts on the parliamentary elections in Egypt (Part I, Part II), is provide some background on the electoral process and the requirements for candidacy and also note some of the players who either have announced or are anticipated to announce their candidacy. I'll conclude with a discussion of how the upcoming presidential election is intertwined with two pressing political concerns in Egypt: 1) the exit of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) from power and 2) the work of the Constituent Assembly charged with drafting a new Egyptian constitution.

Follow me, then, below the hallowed Token of Almighty Kos...

THE SCHEDULE FOR EGYPT'S 2012 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS

5 March to 4 April: registration period for Egyptians resident abroad; the website for registration by expatriates went live on 3 March

10 March to 8 April: window for official registration of candidacy

26 April: announcement of complete list of candidates

30 April to 20 May: period of official campaigning

11 May to 17 May: first round of voting by Egyptians resident abroad

23–24 May: first round of nationwide voting

27 May (-ish): the results of the first round of voting are scheduled (somewhat imprecisely) to be announced within three days of the conclusion of voting; assuming (as seems likely) that no candidate will secure the 50% + 1 required to be declared the winner outright, then the two leading candidates will go head-to-head in a second round of voting

3 June to 9 June: second round of voting by Egyptians resident abroad, if required

16–17 June: second round of nationwide voting, if required

21 June: announcement of final election results

The schedule for presidential elections is largely self-explanatory, so I'll note only a few items of interest. In contrast to the belated and ad hoc registration of expatriates preceding parliamentary elections, the electronic registration system for expatriates to vote in the presidential elections is already up and running. I'll also note some degree of envy for a three-week official campaign season (30 April to 20 May); unofficially, of course, some likely candidates have been campaigning for months already. Finally, I do not know of a single serious analyst of Egyptian politics who is anticipating that any candidate could secure the 50% + 1 of the vote required to win the election outright in the first round. So, then, on to the requirements for candidacy.

REQUIREMENTS FOR CANDIDACY

As part of the Constitutional Referendum overwhelmingly approved by Egyptian voters on 19 March 2011 were a number of amendments to Articles 75 and 76 detailing the requirements for candidates seeking the office of President. These are listed below, as are parenthetical indications of whether the requirement already existed or represents an amendment.

a candidate must be Egyptian, without dual-citizenship (Article 75, existing);

a candidate must “enjoy civil and political rights” [i.e., the full civil and political rights of the candidate must not have been suspended due to a criminal conviction] (Article 75, existing);

a candidate must have been born to Egyptian parents, neither of whom held dual-citizenship (Article 75, amended);

a candidate can not be married to a non-Egyptian (Article 75, amended);

a candidate must be at least 40 years of age (Article 75, existing);

a candidacy must be supported by either:
a) the nomination of a political party holding at least one seat in Parliament (Article 76, existing)
b) a minimum of 30 members of Parliament (Article 76, amended)
c) a miminum of 30,000 eligible voters representing at least fifteen different governorates, in each of which is a minimum of 1,000 supporting voters (Article 76, amended).

The two most significant changes are the nationalist amendments to Article 75 (parents may not be dual-citizens; spouse may not be non-Egyptian) and the introduction of additional "routes" to candidacy in Article 76.

THE CANDIDATES

It is, of course, quite impossible at this early date to know with any certainty who will seek the Presidency, but there are a fair number of potential candidates who have already expressed to varying degrees an interest in running. A note on the links: these links direct to Egypt Independent / al-Masry al-Youm, an English-language Egyptian news-site with a distinct "left" bias (c'est la vie...)

Amr Moussa – long-time diplomat, former Foreign Minister and former Secretary General of the Arab League, Amr Moussa has consistently led most polling of potential presidential candidates. (link)

Abdel Moneim Abouel Fotouh – an advocate for a moderate Islamism, Abouel Fotouh has been an outspoken critic of both Mubarak and the SCAF. Having fallen out with both the Salafists and the Muslim Brotherhood, Abouel Fotouh's “route” to candidacy will depend upon popular support. (link)

Hazem Salah Abu Ismail – a Salafist legal scholar. (link, link)

Mohammed Selim el-Awa – a scholar and activist representing moderate Islamism. (link)

Ahmed Shafiq – former Prime Minister under Mubarak. (link, link)

Hamdeen Sabbahi – founder of the socialist al-Karama Party and a strong player in the Kefaya (Enough!) movement. (link)

Omar Suleiman – former Vice President under Mubarak, Suleiman has scheduled a conference for 9 March at which he is expected to announce his intention to run. (link, link)

Hossam Khairallah – with a background in both the military and intelligence service, Khairallah is viewed by many as the SCAF's unacknowledged candidate. (link)

Mansour Hassan – veteran politician and current head of the SCAF Advisory Council. Hassan announced his candidacy on 7 March, and picked up the endorsement of al-Wafd on 8 March. (link, link)

Hesham al-Bastawisi – a reformist judge, supported by the leftist al-Taggamu Party. (link, link)

Khaled Ali – the former Director of the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights, Ali has a certain credibility as a “revolutionary” candidate. He launched his campaign on 27 February. (link, link)

Abul Ezz al-Hariri – an MP for the Socialist Popular Alliance Party. (link)

Hassan Nafa'a - a political science Professor at Cairo University, Nafa'a has expressed interest in running. He resigned from the SCAF Advisory Council, citing the SCAF's unwillingness to address the "invisible hands" behind violence against protesters. (link)

Bothaina Kamel – a pro-democracy activist and television host, Bothiana was the first woman to announce her intention to seek the Presidency. (link)

Ahmed el-Meslemani – a television journalist, el-Meslemany announced on 29 February that he is seriously considering the possibility of running for President and that he has the backing of the required number of parliamentarians. (link)

Two potential presidential candidates can be placed in the “maybe” category, although for different reasons. Nabil el-'Arabi, the current Secretary General of the Arab League, has recently been rumored to be the “consensus” candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood and the SCAF. While denying any collusion with the MB and/or SCAF, el-'Arabi has thus far remained non-committal on a possible run (fwiw, rumor has it that he would entertain a shortened “transitional” presidency.) (link)

The second candidate in the “maybe” category is Ayman Nour, founder of the al-Ghad Party and al-Ghad al-Thawra Party and distant runner-up to Mubarak in the 2005 presidential election. In late December 2005, Nour was convicted of forging signatures in order to establish al-Ghad and that conviction runs afoul of the “enjoy civil and political rights” clause in Article 75. Nour's recent appeal of his conviction on the basis of documents recovered from State Security Investigation Services (SSIS) headquarters during the revolution was denied in October 2011. It is not clear what, if any, options may be available to Nour who enjoys considerable support among liberals. (link)

There is finally the not-candidate: Mohammed el-Baradei. On 14 January el-Baradei announced that he could not in good conscience run in a presidential election prior to the drafting of a new Constitution. With el-Baradei and (most likely) Nour out of the running, there are no liberal potential candidates with significant popular support. (link, link)

OPINION POLLING

As far as I know, there has been no reliable national polling on the potential presidential candidates since November, and I am reluctant to link those data here. I hope to be able to provide polling-data in Part IV of this on-again-off-again series.

PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS, THE SCAF AND THE CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY

I'll be honest here, and go on-the-record stating that I don't think that the upcoming election of the new Egyptian President will be particularly significant. I expect that whoever is elected will be a “respectable” figurehead-of-state whose presence will to some degree gloss over the real struggle for power in Parliament and in the Constituent Assembly charged with drafting the new Constitution. Four groups are attempting to establish power, or at least not lose power, in this process: the SCAF, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Salafists and the leftists. At the moment, there is much discussion about the likelihood of a “consensus candidate” agreeable to the SCAF and the Muslim Brotherhood, an innocuous figure who would essentially supervise the gamesmanship between the Cobra and the Mongoose. Nabil el-'Arabi was, until recently, the assumed (rumored) consensus candidate; the emergence of Mansour Hassan in the last week indicates to me that he may ultimately supplant el-'Arabi as the compromise candidate with the backing (at various levels of transparency) of the SCAF, large portions of the  Muslim Brotherhood and centrist parties like al-Wafd who don't want to be left in the cold.

What powers the new President will possess is also unclear, as he (I can admit that I am not optimistic regarding Bothaina Kamel's chances) will enter office at a time when 1) the SCAF is still in stewardship of Egypt and 2) the Constituent Assembly will not have completed drafting the new Constitution in which presidential powers will be defined. The real political problem facing Egypt is how to "manage" the exit of the SCAF from power, and that battle will be fought behind the scenes in the Constituent Assembly as the SCAF proxies negotiate for constitutional protection of the military's economic and political independence.

WHY WE SHOULD PAY ATTENTION TO EGYPT

For a variety of strategic reasons, Egypt has been a cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and North Africa. Our response to the 2011 revolution in Egypt as well as the increased tensions in U.S.–Egyptian relations in the wake of the bungled “NGO Affair” have cast a certain amount of doubt on the maintenance of those policies, both in Washington and in Cairo. The results of the upcoming Presidential election in Egypt will not be insignificant in reshaping these relations, although I suggest that the work of the Constituent Assembly may ultimately be of more significance. Interesting times, no?

I'll endeavor to provide Part IV of this series in mid-April, once all of the candidacies have been announced and once (I hope) some reliable polling data become available. After that, I'll be in Egypt for about a month so I'm hopeful that Part V will be a ground-level view of how things stand, written upon my return.

Thanks for reading...

Originally posted to angry marmot on Thu Mar 08, 2012 at 07:20 AM PST.

Also republished by Adalah — A Just Middle East.

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