Egypt’s two presidential front-runners, out of 12 contenders, faced-off in an unprecedented debate Thursday night. Less than two weeks before the first presidential elections since Hosni Mubarak’s ouster, the televised debate between Amr Moussa and Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh was styled after U.S. presidential debates and lasted over four hours.
Viewed by many as tangible progress in the military led transition to civilian rule, the debate addressed critical issues facing a post-Mubarak Egypt, such as the role of Sharia law in the state, the implementation of constitutional limits to the office of the executive, health, education, and Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel — which both candidates pledged to review. Fotouh went as far as to declare Israel an enemy occupation and suggested a future beneficial relationship with Iran.
Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh (left) and former foreign minister, Amr Moussa (right), stand at their podiums during Egypt’s first televised presidential debate.
The undercurrent of the debate emphasized two significant themes: religion and the former regime. As former foreign minister under deposed President Hosni Mubarak and Arab League Chief, Amr Moussa was portrayed by Fotouh as a Mubarak supporter and symbol of the old, repressive regime. Moussa, for his part, attacked Fotouh for his background as former Muslim Brotherhood leader and emphasized the threat of institutionalized political Islam in a new Egypt.
Egyptians have just days before they go to the polls; elections are expected to take place May 23rd and 24th with a run-off into June if no candidate wins by a fifty percent majority. Now, with the freedom to vote in — what will hopefully prove to be — free and fair elections, it is the Egyptians’ turn to determine their fate.