Amr Moussa (Photo: Reuters)
Upgrading the quality of education and vocational training, applying decentralisation, and fixing the economy in a way by which GDP would be augmented and the gap between the very rich and the very poor would narrow were the key elements of the political platform presidential hopeful Amr Moussa set out in several encounters with the public in the last month.
Securing these benchmarks, Moussa argued, is the only recipe capable of freeing people from decades of stress and to afford them a decent quality of life, "that they certainly deserve".
From Helwan to Heliopolis, Moussa has been making the rounds. Talking and listening to people of different walks of life with an eye to picking up the hearts and minds of as wide a constituency as possible.
"The key issue here is that people should not only be promised a better future, but they should really get one," Moussa said in Helwan four weeks ago. "People have the right to be happy; they have the right to be freed from the endless worries and pressure they suffer from. The pursuit of the happiness of the people should be the mission of the next president," he said in Heliopolis on Friday evening.
For the audience in Helwan who gathered at the entrance of the guest house of one of the families in this once industrial castle of Egypt during the years of Nasser, and for the audience in Heliopolis who assembled at the Tea Garden of the Heliopolis Sporting Club, the presidential runner was communicating the same message: your children deserve better education; you deserve better healthcare; and you deserve better public transport and better traffic.
It is these kinds of issues that consume most of the talking — and for that matter, the questions and answers — Moussa is doing since having kicked off his campaign, "Amr Moussa for president".
"The country has suffered a great deal of ailments across the board, and the question ahead of us today is how to fix these ailments; how to stop the decline," Moussa said in Helwan.
"It is unacceptable that one of every two Egyptians is living under the line of poverty, while the other is not necessarily living much above it," he said in Heliopolis.
Moussa determination to overcome the rampant poverty seems pinned on a simple strategy: improve the quality of labour and services; increase income by upgrading production and maximising the benefit of key national assets (the Suez Canal and Egypt's natural resources are key targets for this upgrade process); impose laws on all citizens "with no discrimination"; and give a new lease of life to politics by making elections the sole point of access to key posts, "from the mayor to the governor, they have to be elected so that they know that they have to answer not just to the central government but above all to the people."
Beyond this, the first thing Moussa says he would do if elected president would be to abolish the state of emergency, underlining that "I think it should be removed now". In addition, he says in strident tone, "the transitional phase should not be prolonged; SCAF (the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces) should not be the sole decision maker but it cannot abandon its responsibilities before the election of a president; the vice president should be elected because he could be in charge of the state under certain circumstances; Egypt is the leader of the Arab world, not Turkey and not Iran; Egypt should re-establish the golden days of its relations with Africa; Egypt is a strong country and it should act as such in the face of everybody, Israel above all; and the US does not control 99 per cent of the cards of the so-called peace process, and Egypt should not promote this fallacy."
Audiences are largely reacting favourably. "His plan is clear; he knows what he wants to do. And above all he knows how things have been going, because he was always around, so he really knows how to identify the problems and how to fix them," said Erfan Ahmed, a car mechanic from Helwan. But others are less convinced. "His ideas are good, but the mission is tough. We need a president who has not passed mid-60s, when (Moussa) and all the key runners are in their 70s," said Naguib Richard of Heliopolis.
Yet between supporters and detractors, most appear convinced that Moussa will be a hard candidate to beat, and that most likely he will be the next president, unless the military runs a candidate.
With the exception of a controversial SCAFpoll on FaceBook, Moussa has headed several independent polls that have been conducted on the popularity of potential presidential runners.