05/23/2012, 00.00
EGYPT
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Egypt votes for new president amid disappointment and hope

Challenge between Muslim or military candidates, or from Mubarak establishment. Many Christians support moderate Muslim, Abdul Moneim Aboul Fotouh. The Army tries to maintain its military and economic power. The economy suffers from few foreign investments, drop in tourism, high price of food and energy.

Cairo (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Polls open today for the election of the new Egyptian president, 15 months after the ouster of Hosni Mubarak, followed by riots in Tahrir Square.

At least 50 million Egyptians are being asked to vote between now and tomorrow under tight security control of the army that took over power temporarily in February 2011.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has promised that after the elections, the army will hand over power to a civilian government, but back home, many are betting that the military will do everything to maintain its economic and political influence which it has enjoyed for almost 50 years, since the days of Nasser.

The main candidates are:

Ahmed Shafiq, a former Air Force commander, who was briefly prime minister during the riots of February 2011;

Amr Moussa, former minister at the time of Mubarak and former secretary of the Arab League;

Mohammed Mursi, head of the Justice and Freedom Party, the Muslim Brotherhood;

Abdul Moneim Aboul Fotouh, a Muslim candidate, but detached from the Muslim Brotherhood.

There are other candidates, but it is very likely that the race will be between these four. All of them are expressions of military power, of the establishment of Mubarak, the Muslim Brotherhood. The Democrats and liberal groups that gave birth to the Arab spring, which toppled the Rais and demanded a change in Egypt, failed in producing their own candidate.

It is likely that their vote will go to Abdul Fotouh, a Muslim, but non-ideological and open to new ideas, who has received the support of liberals, Islamists, women, and several MPs.

The battle will be tighter between Mursi and Amr Moussa. Mursi is supported by the Muslim Brotherhood and the mullahs, who are influencing the vote of the rural population through their religious directives. But the Muslim Brotherhood already controls the parliament and especially in the cities there is an attempt to curb their influence.

Amr Moussa is in fact a man of the Mubarak era, although he is careful to show himself as independent. Since the military does not enjoy popularity in the country, it is likely they hope in a Moussa victory, with whom they could share power. It is estimated that the economic power of the army stands at around one third of the total volume of trade in Egypt.

Election slogans, which purport freedom, are wasted: "The first free elections in 5 thousand years." But the danger is that the dissatisfaction of not finding suitable candidates, will lead to new tensions and clashes.

In the 15 months since Mubarak's fall, Egypt has seen many protests, often stifled by the army violence. But the economy is the main concern. Foreign investment in the country fell from 6.4 billion U.S. dollars in 2010 to 500 million in 2011, revenue for tourism fell from 12.5 billion U.S. dollars in 2010 to about 8.8 in 2011.

Added to this is the increase in prices of food (sugar, oil, rice, tomatoes) and energy (gas, oil, petrol). Many fathers cannot provide sufficient food for their families. Analysts say that "the economic, social and security situation of the Egyptian middle have become worse than under Mubarak."

Much of the population points the finger at the military, unable to manage the transition to democracy.

 

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