Amr Moussa

Hatem Maher, Monday 2 Apr 2012

Amr Moussa
Egyptian presidential candidate Amr Moussa (Photo: Reuters)

A prominent politician and career diplomat, Amr Moussa has widespread name recognition in Egypt, the Arab world and internationally.

Born in 1936 in Cairo, he earned a degree in law from Cairo University in 1957, and began his diplomatic career shortly following his graduation.

He married Laila Badawy in 1968, and is a father of two, Hania and businessman Hazem.

Before the revolution

As a diplomat, Moussa worked in Egypt's missions to several countries, including Switzerland and the United States.

In the 1970s, Moussa became an advisor to the Egyptian foreign minister, before serving as the deputy Egyptian permanent representative to the United Nations in New York 1981-83.

He was then Egypt's ambassador to India from 1983 to 1986, and promoted to the position of permanent representative of the country to the United Nations in 1990.

Moussa served as foreign minister under former president Hosni Mubarak from 1991 to 2001, during which time his scathing criticism of Israel made him a popular figure on the Egyptian street.

In 2001 he was chosen secretary-general of the Arab League, a position he held until 2011. There was speculation that he was removed from national politics because Mubarak was threatened by his growing popularity.

He enjoyed a largely warm relationship with the Arab leaders throughout his 10-year tenure at the Arab League. The exception to this was a minor falling-out with Saudi Arabia and Kuwait in late 2010.

According to widespread reports, both countries accused Moussa of violating their rights to take part in the process of choosing the heads of the league’s delegates to several prominent cities, including New York, Washington and Paris.

However, he was subjected to constant criticism for the League's passive role in many conflicts in the region, notably the American invasion of Iraq in 2003 and Israel's attack on the Gaza Strip from December 2008 to January 2009.

During his tenure as Arab League chief, he avoided commenting on Egypt’s internal affairs. However, in 2010, he said in a television interview that he would vote for Mubarak if he decided to run for president for a sixth term at the end of 2011, drawing sharp criticism from pro-democracy activists at the time.

In the same period, Moussa also praised Mubarak's son, Gamal, calling him a decent individual, but implied that he opposed any plans by the former president to groom him as a successor to his father.

The revolution and beyond

Moussa publicly supported pro-democracy protesters during the 18-day uprising, though he spoke in a somewhat cautious tone during the first days of mass protest, falling short of calling for the autocratic leader to leave.

For many of the revolutionaries, he was outshined by Mohamed ElBaradei, who was a staunch critic of Mubarak and explicitly called on him to step down.

Moussa announced on 27 February, two weeks after Mubarak was ousted, that he would run for president.

Moussa has been one of the most active presidential hopefuls, visiting many cities and governorates over the past year to garner support for his campaign.

Pundits say Moussa tried in the aftermath of the revolution to find a common ground between different political forces, including the ruling military council, Islamists and liberals.

He briefly joined an advisory council set up by Egypt’s ruling military to disarm activists who demanded a civilian presidential council in the wake of the infamous clashes on Mohamed Mahmoud Street between police and protesters, which left more than 40 dead in November 2011. He was subjected to a barrage of criticism from pro-democracy activists for being part of the body, which they considered to be a cover for military rule.

Moussa eventually stepped down from the council following charges that army negligence was partly to blame for the events at Port Said football stadium on 1 February, which left 74 fans dead and hundreds injured.   

Commenting on the highly controversial 1978 Camp David peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, Moussa has said that it is not sacred.

"It should be amended to serve Egypt's national security, especially in Sinai," he told reporters, referring to the restrictions the treaty places on the number of troops Egypt can deploy in the peninsula.

Winning cards

* Moussa's extensive experience in diplomacy and politics and the strong relations he built with Arab and world leaders are seen as a plus by those who are wary of political newcomers at such a critical moment for the country.

* Widely-accepted anecdotal stories that Mubarak was threatened by Moussa's rapport with the people allow him to distance himself from the former regime in the eyes of some who support the revolution. However, at the same time, Moussa's association with the regime for decades also allows him to attract votes from many people who have opposed the revolution.

* Some Coptic voters who fear the rise of Islamists might to turn to Moussa because of his liberal views on social issues.

Odds against

* His history as a veteran member of Mubarak's government and questionable support for protesters at the beginning of the revolution renders him unpopular among many young revolutionaries.

* At 75 years of age, he is seen by many as part of a generation which is past its expiration date and out of touch with the youthful energy associated with the revolution.

* His tenure as Arab League secretary-general and close relationships with various anti-democratic Arab regimes, especially in the Gulf, has tarnished his image among some voters opposed to Saudi meddling in Egyptian affairs.


To view profiles of other major candidates in the 2012 presidential elections, click here



Short link: