Possible presidential candidates in Egypt

Reuters, Tuesday 1 Mar 2011

The names and profiles of the expected candidates

Egypt's military leaders are expected to hold a referendum on constitutional change in March and a parliamentary election in June prior to a presidential poll.

Here are some facts about potential presidential candidates who could stand in the election following the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak on 11 February.

* AHMED SHAFIQ: The 70-year-old former air force commander and minister for civil aviation, is the interim prime minister and appointed 12 new ministers last week, keeping in place key portfolios of defense, interior, foreign, finance and justice.

Shafiq, a close associate of former president Hosni Mubarak, had been minister of civil aviation since 2002 and was credited with building a new terminal at Cairo Airport and upgrading Egyptian airports services and infrastructure.

A former fighter pilot, Shafiq served as commander of the Egyptian air force between 1996 to 2002, a post Mubarak himself held before he became vice president of Egypt under former president Anwar Sadat. Shafiq's name often cropped up as one of the potential successors to Mubarak as he aged in office.

As minister of civil aviation, Shafiq won a reputation for efficiency and administrative competence. He supervised a successful modernisation programme at state airline EgyptAir and helped boost tourism, cutting domestic airfares for foreigners.

Although many protesters are calling for the removal of Shafiq, since he was appointed by Mubarak, a Facebook group calling on Shafiq to run has gathered nearly 140,000 supporters.

* AMR MOUSSA: Moussa, 74, and Arab League secretary general for a decade, said in a statement it was his intention to run for the post but would make a final decision once constitutional amendments were finalised.

Moussa was a popular foreign minister under Mubarak, celebrated for his populist pro-Palestinian rhetoric during years of Arab-Israeli peacemaking.

His move to the Arab League has expanded his profile and regional status as he was often speaking out on Israeli and American policy in the region, where many are silent.

He has been cited in the past by many Egyptians who see him as someone they would support as president. In the 2005 presidential race, one group launched a petition calling for Moussa to run and a similar one has been launched for the upcoming elections.

He has been vocal since the protests began, saying he wanted to see a multi-party democracy in Egypt.

* MOHAMED ELBARADEI: The 68-year-old former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), returned to Egypt in 2010 after a career that saw him win a Nobel peace prize in 2005. He returned on 27 January, 2011 stating he was ready to take any role in a transitional government.

Egyptians respect ElBaradei but are wary of the long periods he spent away from the country. The army, which will play a pivotal role in Egypt's leadership, is also cagey about this outsider.

ElBaradei's cosmopolitanism may be an advantage among some Egyptians but it is a source of suspicion for others.

ElBaradei has downplayed any run for the presidency, though he has not ruled it out altogether. He hopes the next president will be in his "40s or early 50s", he said. But he says he is ready to help transform Egypt into a democracy that treats people with dignity and respects human rights.

* AYMAN NOUR: Egyptian opposition figure Ayman Nour said on 14 February that a police officer tried to stab him, adding that the attack showed the scale of the problems Egypt faces moving towards the democracy promised by its military rulers.

A liberal politician and lawyer, Nour was Mubarak's rival in the 2005 presidential election but suffered for this.

He was jailed after conviction for submitting forged documents when setting up his Ghad (Tomorrow) party, charges he said were trumped up. He was released after serving more than three years of a five-year term.

The law as it stands bans him from any political office for at least five years after the end of his original jail term, which would rule out running in upcoming elections. It is not clear if this will be changed. Nour served previously as a parliamentarian for the Wafd party, which he left.

* OMAR SULEIMAN: The 74-year-old former intelligence chief who held the shortest lived vice presidency in Egypt may have a crack at the presidency given the support he enjoys from the military establishment.

Suleiman, who read the announcement of Mubarak's abdication of power, could run for presidency based on proposed constitutional changes that would require the backing of 30,000 eligible voters or the backing of 30 members of parliament.

Suleiman became director of the Egyptian General Intelligence Services (EGIS) in 1993, a role in which he played a prominent public role in diplomacy, including in Egypt's relations with Israel and with the United States.

Suleiman took part in the war in Yemen in 1962 and the 1967 and 1973 wars against Israel.

As Egypt's intelligence chief, Suleiman was in charge of the country's most important political security files, and was the mastermind behind the fragmentation of Islamist groups who led the uprising against the state in the 1990s. But as vice-president, Suleiman held dialogue with youth and political forces and had called for an end to mass protests and demonstrations, losing popularity among many Egyptians.

* HAMDEEN SABAHI: A popular Arab nationalist politician who leads the Karama party that has never achieved formal licencing from the government.

Elected to parliament in 2005, Sabahi considered running in the presidential elections that year after Mubarak introduced amendments under pressure from Washington but later changed his mind. He was expected to attempt a bid for the presidency this year.

* AHMED ZEWAIL: Egyptian winner of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1999, Zewail said last year he had no political ambitions.

Since he returned to Egypt in early February, Zewail has met Vice-President Suleiman, and Arab League chief Moussa and the head of Al-Azhar, a seat of Islamic learning. He was exploring what "wise man" role he might play between government and revolution, but the rift may be too wide.

"I know exactly what the youth want. They want to see a new Egypt. It's as simple of that," said Zewail, who serves as U.S. President Barack Obama's science envoy to the Middle East.

New proposed constitutional amendments that will prevent a holder of dual citizenship from running for the presidency may rule out Zewail, who has American citizenship.

* MOHAMMED BADIE: Badie, 66, became leader of Egypt's biggest opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, in 2010. The Brotherhood is run on a collegiate basis, with several figures who often speak in its name such as Essam al-Erian or London-based Kamel El-Helbawy.

The Brotherhood, banned under Mubarak, last week decided to establish a political party.

"The establishment of this party answers the aspirations of the Egyptian people for a better future," Badie was quoted as saying on the group's website.

The structure and leadership of the party, expected to be called the Freedom and Justice Party, will be announced soon, Badie added.

Badie is seen as a conservative, in the typical mould of Brotherhood leaders, who was reluctant to challenge the authorities for fear of provoking more repression. Mubarak made fending off the Islamists a major plank of his policies.

The Brotherhood said it will not seek the presidency in the coming election but its position beyond that is not clear.

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