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Egypt presidential face-off: Islamists vs. 'regime remnants'

Egypt's first free presidential election in modern times starts tomorrow, with the front-runners the Islamist Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh and Amr Moussa, a former longtime servant of ousted President Hosni Mubarak.

By Correspondent / May 22, 2012

People walk under a campaign election banner for Mohamed Morsi, the Brotherhood’s official candidate, in old Cairo on Tuesday, May 22.

Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters

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Cairo

Tomorrow, Egyptians will go to the polls to choose their president for the first time in modern history, but they are facing a choice of front-runners who represent some of the oldest forces in the state.

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On one side is Amr Moussa, a long-time foreign minister under former President Hosni Mubarak. He casts himself as the anti-Islamist candidate, and a vote for experience and stability. On the other is Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, a long-time member of the historic Egyptian opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood. Though he was expelled last year, and has attempted to bridge the Islamist-secular polarization of Egyptian politics, in the minds of many Egyptians he is still Ikhwan.

Even a broader definition of "front-runners" doesn't broaden the spectrum: there is Mohamed Morsi, the Brotherhood’s official candidate, and Ahmed Shafiq, Mubarak’s last prime minister.

“Most of the candidates are old figures. Yes, a number of them were not part of the regime, but they were part of the political establishment during the Mubarak era. … Yes, a number of them were in the opposition, yet it’s clear that we don’t have new, younger faces,” says an Egyptian blogger who goes by The Big Pharoah. “It’s pretty clear that the revolution still did not develop into political choices.”

A poll conducted this month by the University of Maryland found that Dr. Aboul Fotouh was leading, with 32 percent of respondents saying they favored him, while Mr. Moussa came in second with 28 percent. Mr. Shafiq garnered 14 percent and Mr. Morsi 8 percent.

In the capital, the candidates’ familiar faces seem to stare out from every wall, on campaign posters plastered all over the city, or banners fluttering in the breeze. On some posters belonging to Mr. Moussa, the word felool, a pejorative term referring to members of the previous regime, has been scrawled by passers-by.

In Cairo streets, on the metro, in taxis and cafes, it is difficult to escape the discussions and arguments over who to vote for. Some Egyptians are not disturbed by Moussa’s connections to Mubarak. After all, he left the regime a decade ago, pushed out when his popularity appeared to threaten his boss. He spent the next decade as leader of the Arab League, away from the growing power of Mubarak’s son Gamal, whose status as Mubarak’s assumed heir and reputation for corruption incited popular anger.

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