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Egypt's Moussa Stresses Experience in Time of Flux

  • Elizabeth Arrott

CAIRO - Veteran diplomat Amr Moussa is one of the top contenders in Egypt's presidential election May 23-24.

Moussa's past is both a strength and a weakness. The former foreign minister and ex- Arab League chief says he is ready to lead the nation.

"The country is in a major crisis," noted Moussa. "And a major crisis would not justify at all a president who will ask around 'What do I do on this point, or that point' and gaining experience as he goes."

Challenges


But how the presidential candidate got his experience is proving one of the biggest hurdles of his campaign. Cairo voter Hussein Ali will not be casting his ballot for him.

Ali says he doesn't want someone from the former government as president. The country, he says, needs "new blood."

At a recent debate, the urbane, veteran diplomat defended his past by pointing to the last decade spent at the Arab League.

He said “when the regime fell, it fell with its officials.” Moussa argued he was no longer part of the government, having left 10 years prior -- nor was he part of its problems, he added.

Supporters
Moussa's supporters say it was the politician's independent streak that got him sidelined to the League: a strong stand against Israel led to a burst in popularity and a hit song praising him, making former President Hosni Mubarak, Moussa's supporters say, wary and jealous.

Now Moussa's competition is largely Islamist. A practicing Muslim himself, he distinguishes his platform by calling it a nationalist one that will restore order through reform.

"Egypt has been injured and Egypt has been mismanaged and Egypt should not get into an experiment that has not been tried before in order for us to enter into a period of confusion," he said.

Political analyst and publisher Hisham Kassem says continued instability, more than a year after Egypt's revolution, plays to Moussa's advantage.

"There are a lot of people who are very disturbed about what is happening in Egypt and remember, this was an urban uprising, not a rural one," said Kassem. "And, the rural vote is very pro-conservative, pro-stability, so I think these are his strong points."

Walking a line between the future and the past, Moussa promises, if elected, to serve only one term, a transitional figure for a nation still in flux.
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