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Cover Stories Series 2012> Sino-Egyptian Relations> Archive
UPDATED: May 21, 2012 NO. 21 MAY 24, 2012
Egypt's Future Shock
New Egyptian president must focus on social stability and economic revival
By Ding Ying

CALLING FOR CHANGE: Egyptian demonstrators confront riot police during protests outside the Defense Ministry in Cairo on May 4. Anti-military protesters are demanding the military hand power over to an elected government (XINHUA/AFP)

Fifteen months after Hosni Mubarak's fall from power, Egyptians can finally decide their own future in the upcoming presidential election. Observers said the election will be a fight between religion and secularism because of the candidates' backgrounds. Whoever wins the fight must face a bigger challenge: giving Egyptians a better life in a safer society.

Everything is uncertain

There are 13 qualified presidential candidates, who represent different political factions and interest groups. The three top candidates are former Foreign Minister Amr Moussa, Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, a moderate Islamist and former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq, who is believed to have support from the military. Observers are not sure about who will win because the situation is complicated. There might not be a final winner in the first round on May 23-24, and the winner will probably be decided by a runoff in mid-June.

"Guessing the probability of every candidate's victory is like flipping a coin," said Li Guofu, a research fellow on Middle East studies with the China Institute of International Studies. He explained that every candidate's background has both advantages and disadvantages. And only Egyptian people can truly decide the presidential election result and the country's future.

Moussa, who previously served as general secretary of the League of Arab States, represents the secular force, Li said. Moussa has administrative experience, and is well known to the world because of his past positions. He did a good job protecting Egypt's state interests in his position as the country's foreign minister, which brings him great respect from Egyptian people.

"Moussa has good resources, good fame and good experience. But his weak point is many people still doubt his connection with the Mubarak regime," Li said.

The Muslim Brotherhood-supported candidate Aboul Fotouh faces similar problems. While he gets support from the powerful Islamic organization that wins lower- and middle-class Egyptians' hearts, others worry about his Islamic background.

Li said there is not much for the outside world, especially the West, to do in the election. Nationalism has been on the rise in Egypt since Mubarak was forced to step down, and people are on high alert for external intervention, whether from the West or the Arab world.

"External actors will be more cautious considering such an atmosphere, because they are afraid of triggering an opposite effect. So although the West could still use as much influence as it can, the influence will be limited," Li said.

Liu Baolai, a research fellow with the Chinese People's Institute of Foreign Affairs, agreed the result of the presidential election is uncertain. He predicted that the winner might be Moussa or Aboul Fotouh, but the winner will not come from the first round of presidential voting. "The votes are too divided among different candidates," said Liu. "Right now, Moussa is the most popular one, and his approval rating reached only about 42 percent."

Role of the military

The function of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces is special and significant in Egypt. And the military will continue to play a role in the nation's politics.

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