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Egyptian Presidential Race Seems Certain to End in Runoff
May 20, 2012

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Egyptians will go to the polls this week in the first truly open presidential election in the country's recent history.

Recent polling suggests that it is truly an open race, with 37 percent of voters still undecided. The poll, done by the Egyptian Centre for Public Opinion Research found that as with the anti-Mubarak movement of 2011, support for the establishment was strongest in rural areas. Belief is strong in some areas that Hosni Mubarak's advisers, not the president himself, were to blame for the abuses of the past several years.

Ahmed Shafiq, the last prime minister under Mubarak, garnered 16.3 percent of support from likely voters. Amr Moussa, a former foreign minister, was just behind with 16 percent. Abdel Moneim Abol Fotouth, formerly of the Muslim Brotherhood and a clear opposition figure, was on 12.5 percent. Moussa and Fotouh took part in a televised debate just a few days ago.

Voting will take place on May 23–24. Because no candidate is expected to gain more than half of the votes, a runoff is almost certain. The date for a runoff has already been set: June 21.

Still, no ones knows for sure what will happen when Egyptians actually to go the polls. Voting for parliamentary seats was relatively straightforward and nearly violence-free. Many observers think, however, that tensions for the presidential race will be high, not least because of the national election commission's recent decision to disqualify 10 candidates, including the preferred candidate of the Islamist Salafi party.

Tensions among the various political parties are high as well because the Muslim Brotherhood is fielding a candidate, despite a well-publicized promise not to do so. The Brotherhood displayed its political strength by organizing a 470-mile-long human chain to show support for its preferred candidate, Mohamed Mursi (who was not among the top names mentioned in the latest polling). The chain stretched form Cairo to Aswan, and participants held up posters with Mursi's name and wore T-shirts and caps bearing Mursi's likeness. The Brotherhood has a long history of organization, despite being officially outlawed by Mubarak's government.

Meanwhile, the head of the ruling military council, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, promised a fair vote and reiterated his desire to hand over power to the newly elected president.

 
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