Egypt expats favor mild Islamist

Egypt expats favor mild Islamist

Egypt expats favor mild Islamist

Supporters of Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate Mohammed Morsi in the Egyptian presidential election hold a rally in Cairo. AP photo

Moderate Islamist and former member of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, Abdel-Moneim Abolfotoh, is leading in the presidential elections held by Egyptian embassies abroad, partial results showed, ahead of the country’s historical elections on May 23 and 24.

The online statement by the State Information Service (SIS) on May 19 said Abolfotoh is followed by left-leaning Hamdeen Sabahi and the figures “confirmed a sharp competition” for third between former Arab League Secretary-General and Foreign Minister Amr Moussa and Mohammed Morsi, the Brotherhood’s candidate.

Out of a total of 38,000 ballots cast by Egyptian expatriates at a dozen diplomatic outposts, Abolfotoh received nearly 30 percent while Hamdeen Sabahi, a left-leaning Arab nationalist candidate, received nearly 23 percent. Amr Moussa is trailing Sabahi with 19 percent, according to the Financial Times.

Under Egypt’s election rules, expatriates are permitted to cast their ballots for the May 23 and 24 vote in advance at embassies and consulates. Though the results are not wholly representative of the country, they are an indication of how difficult it is to predict the outcome of the country’s first free presidential election.

The landmark poll will define the path of the Arab world’s most populous nation, currently split between Islamists who scored big in legislative elections and members of the former regime who promise a return to stability. The election takes place in a climate of openness and democratic debate, a contrast to the predetermined results under longtime President Mubarak, but also amid insecurity and severe economic stagnation.

Inspired by an uprising in Tunisia, Egypt was the second country in the region to force its president from power with a popular uprising. Ahmed Shafiq, the last premier to serve under Mubarak and the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate Mohammed Mursi are also running in the election. Moussa and Shafiq have leaned heavily on their political experience in their campaigns, vowing a return to stability.

The first round will be followed by a run-off on June 16 and 17 if no candidate obtains an absolute majority. The army, which has ruled the country since Mubarak’s fall, has promised to cede power to civilian rule before the end of June, once the new president is elected.