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The Egyptian presidential election race is beginning to take shape after election officials announced it will be held in June.
Several candidates have declared their candidacy, including three Islamists and several former ministers and senior government officials. A specific date has not been announced yet because officials are discussing how to provide enough time for citizens abroad to vote.
Mohammed Attia, the minister of parliamentary affairs, said candidates can submit their candidacy paperwork from March 10th to April 8th.
"The High Elections Committee has exclusive authority to set the date for the presidential elections," Attia told Al-Ahram. "The presidential election law amendment states that results will be announced by provincial committees instead of the central committee to ensure the elections are transparent and credible."
The list of potential candidates includes Amr Moussa, former secretary-general of the Arab League and former foreign minister; Ahmed Shafiq, former prime minister; Hamdeen Sabahi, a political activist; Dr. Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, a former Muslim Brotherhood leader; Hazem Salah Abu Ismail, a Salafist cleric; Dr. Muhammad Salim Al-Awa, an Islamist intellectual; and General Hossam Khairallah, a former intelligence official.
Dr. Mohammed ElBaradei, the former director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, withdrew from the presidential race in January.
Islamist and secular political forces have so far declined to endorse potential candidates.
The Muslim Brotherhood and its political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party, which won more than 40% of seats in parliament, declined to endorse any candidate or nominate one for the presidential race.
Other Islamist parties, especially the Salafists and the Islamic Group, are in the process of identifying candidates to endorse.
Tariq al-Zumar, an Islamic Group leader, said last week the group invited several potential candidates to meet at its headquarters to discuss their electoral programmes so the party could select a single candidate to endorse.
Mohammed Nour, spokesman for the Salafist al-Nour Party, said the party will announce its endorsement when the nomination period begins.
Essam el-Erian, a parliamentarian in the Freedom and Justice Party, told Al-Shorfa the presidential election represents an important step forward in the nation's progress, but it is essential that a new constitution be drafted simultaneously so that the powers of the next president are clearly defined.
He said the transition period needs to end quickly and "should not extend beyond June in order to start rebuilding the Egyptian state, restore its economic strength and its role on the regional and international spheres".
"The Brotherhood is committed to honouring its pledge not to field a candidate in the presidential elections nor support any of the potential candidates," el-Erian said. "There are many national figures in Egypt who can carry this heavy burden."
Ahmed Oleiba, a political researcher, told Al-Shorfa, "It is difficult for most liberal and leftist forces to endorse a specific candidate now especially since the new constitution is still unfinished, and the powers of the president have not been defined."
"Among some non-Islamist forces, especially youth and revolutionary movements, candidates such as Moussa and Shafiq enjoy wide popularity, but the fact that they worked with the former regime hamstrings their ability to garner support from secular forces. At the same time, they are seen by Islamist forces such as the Salafists and the Islamic Group, as being non-supportive of the [Islamists'] conservative views," he said.
"It is a complex process that will only be resolved through the ballot box by the average citizen, whose choices have surprised everyone during the past period," Oleiba said.
Many voters said they are undecided about which candidate to support, especially since the candidates have not announced their platforms publicly.
"I have no reservations about any of the candidates, but I know nothing about their programmes to make a choice. It does not matter if the candidate is an Islamist or secular as long as his programme is compatible with my expectations," said Ayman Mounir, 28, an accountant for an insurance company.
Mona Abdul-Khaliq, 40, said she will support the candidate who she determines will preserve Arab and Islamic values and ensure that Egypt enjoys security, stability and economic growth. She said Islamist candidates seem to come closest to meeting those criteria, but she will wait before making a decision to read about their programmes.
Magdy Ismail, 35, a lawyer, said, "Regardless of whether the next president is an Islamist or is secular, he needs to focus on issues that affect the Egyptian family, such as education, increasing salaries, and improving the economy."