The campaign for the presidency of Egypt starts in less than a month, and the twists and turns get ever weirder. First came the withdrawal of Mohamed ElBaradei, ex-head of the UN's nuclear-arms inspection agency, over the army's slowness in turning power over to civilians.
Then came a court ruling that disqualified three leading candidates: Mubarak's former right-hand man, Omar Suleiman; a prominent hard-line Islamist (on the grounds his mother was a U.S. citizen!); and the candidate endorsed by the powerful Muslim Brotherhood. The MB has since put forward a replacement candidate -- but one who is less well-known and less charismatic.
Now the latest twist: Abdul Moneim Abol Fotouh, leader of the Brotherhood's more liberal youth wing, had been booted out of the organization last year when he decided (without party approval) to submit his own candidacy. He picked up some of ElBaradei's supporters but was still running at 10 per cent or less. Saturday, however, he was endorsed by the Nour Party, a leading group in the fundamentalist Salafi coalition that took 25% of the vote in the parliamentary elections.
This is huge! Even though many hoped and expected the Brotherhood to reach out to moderates and secularists, it has failed to do so. Now the hard-line Islamists are bidding to outflank the MB by throwing their votes to a candidate even liberals can support. And Abol Fotouh still has support among disaffected (especially young) Brothers. Suddenly Abol Fotouh is looking like a serious rival to former Arab League head Amr Moussa, who had been leading in most polls.
Very, very interesting develo.pment