Egypt begins first ever free presidential electionsBy
Applications open for 23 May vote with Mubarak-era politicians, ex-military officers and Islamists expected to lead field
The first ever free presidential elections in Egypt have begun, with candidates now able to submit their applications.
Politicians from the era of the deposed president Hosni Mubarak, ex-military officers and moderate and hardline Islamists are expected to become the frontrunners in a vote due to start on 23 May.
The elections follow decades of authoritarian rule, with all of the country’s former presidents elevated from the ranks of the military and usually approved by referendum.
Mubarak, who was forced to step down last year after an 18-day mass uprising, was elected to his last term in 2005. Those were Egypt’s first multi-candidate presidential elections but they were widely rigged.
The country’s ruling military council, which took power after Mubarak’s fall, has pledged to transfer power to elected civilian authorities after the name of the new president is announced on 21 June.
The revolutionary youth movement that led the uprising, a poor performer in the first post-revolution parliamentary elections in January, is concerned the generals will keep their grip on power even after a new president is inaugurated.
Two of the top presidential hopefuls, the former Arab League chief Amr Moussa and the former prime minister Lieutenant General Ahmed Shafiq, have warm relations with the generals.
Moussa, who has popularity among middle-class Egyptians, has made cautious statements that appear critical of a political role and privileges for the military, but is still considered a product of the Mubarak era.
Shafiq is a former pilot in the armed forces who was forced to resign as prime minister last year because of alleged ties with Mubarak.
Two other strong candidates, the ultraconservative Hazem Abu-Ismail and the moderate Islamist Abdel-Moneim Abolfotoh, have frostier relations with the military and are more likely to try to deprive the generals of a significant political role after a transition of power.
from Damien Pearse