As others have fallen by the wayside, Amr Moussa stepped up his campaign for the Egyptian presidency on Wednesday, going to a informal area of Cairo to launch his platform in a bid to win over voters, whose choices have been narrowed down in only a few days.
From a poor neighborhood in Cairo, Moussa promises prosperity for all Egyptians
Friday ,20 April 2012
During his rally in the working class area of Ezbet al-Hagana, Moussa said Egypt needs almost complete rebuilding that will constitute the foundations of a second Egyptian republic.
He was referring to the political system initiated by the 23 July revolution when the monarchy was cancelled and the republic was established. This political system has been, according to wide swath of Egyptian, lacking real democratic foundations. The second republic, according to Moussa, will advance democracy and reform.
Moussa, a former foreign minister and Arab League secretary general, also said he aims to establish an administrative and financial control system that would not only track corruption, but cut it out at the root.
Over a year of political uncertainty and economic crisis has exacerbated the woes of many of the poor in Egypt, a country where a fifth of the population lives on US$2 a day.
He said that he has a vision for a strong economy that creates jobs and prosperity for all citizens and that takes care of the poor and the marginalized, aiming to reduce the poverty rate by 40 percent by the middle of the next decade.
With just a few weeks to go before the historic vote to fill the post from which Hosni Mubarak was ousted 14 months ago, Moussa's well-organized campaign and wide name recognition give him a head start.
Commentators say that his chances have been further improved by a spate of disqualifications that have forced out rivals including Omar Suleiman, Mubarak's spy chief, whose last minute decision to run risked splitting Moussa's support base among voters worried by the dramatic rise of Islamists in the last year.
Moussa now appears to be one of a handful candidates with a decent chance of winning in the vote, due to held on 23 and 24 May. Some analysts believe the vote could go to a June run-off between Moussa and one of the Islamists.
Opinion polls, including that of the Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies, show that Moussa stands the best chance among the other presidential candidates, especially after the exclusion of strong candidates like Khairat al-Shater, Suleiman and Hazem Salah Abu Ismail from the race.
But Moussa, who describes himself as a liberal, still has to convince many voters who are skeptical of his reform credentials because of both his age and links to Mubarak's era.
Seeking to show he can deliver change, Moussa pledged to eradicate illiteracy and to attract needed international aid.
He added that he will push for decentralized governance by dividing responsibilities between the central authority and local councils, so as to bring decision makers and implementers close to those who would be affected by administrative decisions, and devise a new system of state administration that is based on the empowerment of the people, who would be able to elect the governors, the mayors and the officials of the local councils.
The 75-year-old offered a 100-day plan for his first days in office. He detailed a vision that would slash poverty and set in motion a plan to double Egypt's gross domestic product in 10 years. He says he will only serve for a single, four-year term.
"We are not talking about the realm of the impossible. We are not talking about the realm of imagination. We are talking about the realm of the achievable," he said in one impassionate remark as youth supporters wearing vests with "Students for Moussa" burst into chants of "Moussa! We want Moussa!"
Many voters say they are looking for a president with experience to restore stability and boost the economy.
"Poverty is Egypt's number one enemy," said Moussa from Hagana, one of dozens of slum areas in the capital. More than a third of Egypt's urban population lives in similarly poor areas, according to a 2008 United Nations Development report.
"Egypt is not a poor country. It has plenty of resources — resources that have yet to be used properly," he added, as a hen that escaped a vendor's cage pecked at the dirt nearby.
In an hour-long address translated into sign language, Moussa said Egyptians must work together to build a modern state with an economy that could create jobs for all and "cares for the marginalized and weak."
He categorically rejected all kinds of discrimination between Egyptians, on the basis of religion, sex or race. "A president should lead a national alliance that does not differentiate between Muslim and Copt in order to make progress," he said. "And Egypt after the revolution will not be a country where women are deprived of their rights and freedoms."
"This is not an electoral platform, but rather a comprehensive vision for the future of Egypt, a vision that faithfully translates the objectives of the revolution for liberty, social justice and human dignity," he said.
"There is no difference between Muslim or Christian, liberal, conservative or leftist. Egypt is in danger and its revolution is also in danger," he said, describing the country's tumultuous transition led by the ruling military council.
"The president must lead a coalition to save the nation."
In his first 100-days in office, he promised to immediately lift the state of emergency and take quick steps to help a tourism sector battered by the unrest. He has proposed offering tax waivers for tourism facilities as one example.
As many of his supporters broke into applause, others looked on with skepticism.
"We should listen, we shouldn't clap. We used to clap for Mubarak. He is talking reasonably and he is a first class politician, but we shouldn't forget he used to sit in Mubarak's government," Sobhy Sayed Ahmed, a 39-year old security guard, told Reuters. "Mubarak too used to say things that were reasonable."
"We have been manipulated, deceived and neglected for the last 30 years. They named the whole country after Mubarak, what about us? It's not easy to trust promises."