(MENAFN - Jordan Times) The entry of Egypt's former intelligence chief Omar Suleiman and of Muslim Brotherhood leader Muhammad Morsi into the presidential race has transformed it into a contest between men who served under ousted president Hosni Mubarak and fundamentalists persecuted by him.
The young revolutionaries who toppled Mubarak could never have imagined their drive for democratic, accountable governance would have such an outcome.
Suleiman said he had decided to declare his candidature because the Brotherhood's popularity seems to have declined due to "their determination of monopolise all posts". He is expected to enjoy the backstage support of the military and the country's powerful official media, as well as of many Egyptians who are alarmed by the deteriorating security situation, rising prices and the lack of a clear transition from an authoritarian system to democracy.
Morsi, head of the Brotherhood's political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party, joined the list of 23 candidates as an alternate to the Brotherhood's Khayrat Shater, who had previously stepped into the race.
Shater, who spent 12 years in prison for money laundering and funding the banned Brotherhood during Mubarak's reign, had his civil rights and his frozen millions restored, but there is concern that he could be disqualified. Disqualifications are set to be announced on April 26.
The first round of voting is set for May 23-24 and the run-off for June 16-17.
The Brotherhood does not want to lose the opportunity to field its own candidate by betting solely on Shater. Morsi said he will withdraw in Shater's favour if he is not disqualified due to imprisonment.
Suleiman joined a number of Mubarak-era figures, including former foreign minister and Arab League head, Amr Musa, Ahmad Shafiq, a former airforce commander who was appointed Mubarak's last premier, and Mortada Mansour, a leading politician who is facing charges of engineering the infamous attack, dubbed the "battle of the camel", on revolutionaries in Tahrir Square on February 2, 2011.
Suleiman was correct in his assessment that the Brotherhood seems determined to gain control of the major political positions in post-Mubarak Egypt. Its Freedom and Justice party holds 47 per cent of the seats in the Lower House of Parliament, the People's Assembly, and 58 per cent of the elected seats in the Upper House, the shura council. Ultra-orthodox Salafists, who may or may not cooperate with the Brotherhood, have 20 per cent in the assembly and 25 per cent in the council.
The head of Freedom and Justice Party, Saad El Kitani, is parliamentary speaker and head of the constitutional commission. The party has been pressing the ruling military council to dissolve the government appointed by the generals and replace it with a Cabinet chosen by the fundamentalist-dominated People's Assembly.
Fundamentalists have appointed 70 of the 100 members of the constitutional commission, precipitating the withdrawal of 25 representatives of secular parties, Coptic Christians, professional syndicates and Al Azhar, the 1,000-year-old centre of learning. Al Azhar's rector, liberal Sheikh Ahmad El Tayyeb, argues that all sectors of Egyptian society must be represented in the commission.
On Tuesday, a Cairo court suspended the commission, challenging the legitimacy of a body chosen by the fundamentalist majority in parliament. Appeals can be expected to postpone for weeks and months the drafting of this key document.
For many months, the Brotherhood proclaimed it would support an independent for the presidency, but then it decided to field Shater, the movement's second-in-command, strategist and financial manager. Or, rather, Shater decided to run for presidency and the rest of the movement's leadership went along. He has created a stir among secularists and Christians by pledging to grant Muslim clerics the power to review legislation to ensure it is in line with Islamic law.
The Brotherhood Shater-Morsi candidacy could split the fundamentalist vote three ways. The other two candidates are Abdel Moneim Abul Fatouh, a liberal Brotherhood figure who was expelled when he declared his intention to stand, and Muhammad Selim El Awa, a conservative fundamentalist commentator.
A fourth fundamentalist, Hazem Salah Abu Ismail, has been disqualified because his mother became a naturalised US citizen and travelled on a US passport. Egyptians standing for the top office must be born of Egyptian parents and hold no second nationality. He is challenging this ruling.
Abu Ismail, a populist Salafist who took an active part in the uprising, calls for strict implementation of Islamic law, a ban on beach tourism and alcohol, and the revival of religious schools.
According to an opinion poll conducted by Al Ahram, Musa remains the favourite, with 30.7 per cent of the vote, but Abu Ismail is snapping at his heels, with 28.8 per cent. If he is compelled to withdraw from the race, the winner would be Aboul Fatouh, with Musa coming in second. Since neither will, according to the poll, garner 50 per cent, they will stand in the run-off. But there are still six weeks until election day, and six weeks are a long time in politics.
When it decided to field its own presidential candidate, the Brotherhood broke pledges made in February 2011 that it would not seek the presidency and that it would field candidates for only one-third of the seats in parliament. Later, the Brotherhood promised that it would not try to dominate the constitutional commission.
By breaking its promises, the movement, Egypt's second oldest party founded in 1928, has disappointed some supporters and angered secularists and Christians. Nevertheless, the movement is determined to make the most of the opportunities afforded by the uprising waged by mainly secular revolutionaries who were subsequently sidelined by the fundamentalists and Mubarak's men.
In spite of the decline in the prospects of the revolutionaries, opponents of Mubarak loyalists and illiberal fundamentalists are not prepared to concede defeat.
In response to Suleiman's declaration of his
candidacy, Essam Sultan, a legislator for the moderately fundamentalist Wasat party, has submitted to parliament draft legislation that would bar candidates who held high office during the past five years. This law, adopted by parliament on Tuesday, would remove Suleiman and Shafiq from the field, but leave Musa in place. It is doubtful, however, that this law will stand without challenge or, if allowed to stand, will be put into force retroactively. Revolutionaries have been trying to promote such legislation ever since Mubarak was ousted on February 11, 2011. But the generals and their allies in the Mubarak clique have strenuously resisted the banning of members of the old order.