Two of the top candidates running to become Egypt’s first post-revolution president have squared off in the Arab world’s first televised presidential debate, one whose focus became a sometimes angry debate over their controversial pasts.
Egyptians crowded around television sets in outdoor cafes for the four-hour debate on Thursday night, aired in two segments over several independent TV channels – a new experiment for Egypt after nearly 30 years of authoritarian rule under President Hosni Mubarak.
Former Mubarak-era foreign minister and Arab League chairman Amr Moussa pressed Islamist doctor and former high-ranking Muslim Brotherhood member Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh over the latter’s connections to conservative religious groups, suggesting in the end that if he became president it risked a return to insecurity and terrorism.
Aboul Fotouh, who despite occasional shouting matches never seemed to lose his calm, countered that Moussa, as a former member of Mubarak’s regime, was incapable of carrying out the goals of the revolution that ousted his boss.
The two are among 13 candidates competing in the election, due to be held on May 23 and 24. Along with the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate, Mohammed Morsi, they are considered front-runners.
Moussa, who has been campaigning throughout Egypt since Mubarak’s fall more than a year ago, is considered to be favoured by secularists, liberals and the so-called “silent majority” that may have eventually come to support the revolution but fears more unrest.
Aboul Fotouh, who left the Brotherhood in 2011 over ideological differences and in order to run for president, has pulled together an unlikely coalition of liberals, socialists, moderate and hardline Islamists and is seen as perhaps the best chance for the politically unaffiliated youth of the revolution to win some kind of voice in the executive branch.
For most of Mubarak’s rule, he was re-elected in referendums in which he was the only candidate. The last presidential election, in 2005, was the first to allow multiple candidates, but Mubarak won with more than 90 per cent of the vote.
Read the rest at Al Jazeera