Moussa Leads in Poll as Egypt Election Campaigning Begins

Campaigning for Egypt’s first presidential election since Hosni Mubarak’s ouster began as the ruling generals were poised to announce governmental changes and the constitution-writing process faced further obstacles.

A weekly poll showed former Arab League Secretary General Amre Moussa leading the field of 13 candidates for the May 23 race. Moussa, who also served as foreign minister, secured the backing of 41.1 percent of those surveyed, according to the study conducted by Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies and published today in the state-run al-Ahram newspaper. Islamist candidate Abdel Moneim Aboul-Fotouh, backed by the largest Salafi bloc in parliament, was second with 27.3 percent.

The official start of campaigning comes at a critical juncture for Egypt, with the ruling military council under growing pressure from Islamists and secularists concerned it will renege on pledges to hand over power to a civilian administration while efforts to draft a new constitution led to fresh objections within parliament.

The speaker of parliament’s lower house yesterday said he had received a promise that the military would make changes within the government. That step came after the assembly voted to suspend its work for the remainder of the week to protest the ruling generals’ refusal to fire a government lawmakers see as obstructing their work and “engineering” crises.

The proposed reshuffle, which would be limited, “adds to the instability which reflects negatively on the macro scene,” Mona Mansour, an analyst with investment bank CI Capital, said in an e-mailed note. “This could delay receiving the IMF loan,” she said.

IMF Loan

The government is negotiating with the International Monetary Fund over a $3.2 billion loan.

The Cabinet changes may include some Islamist ministers and affect ministries including trade, foreign affairs and oil, Al Ahram Gate said. The inclusion of Islamists could ease tension between them and the military. It may also bolster unease among secularists concerned that Islamists -- including the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party that controls nearly 50 percent of the seats in the lower house -- are increasing their power.

A parliamentary committee yesterday rejected the framework for the selection of a panel to draft the constitution, drawing a rebuke from the military council’s civilian advisory body, the state-run the Middle East News Agency reported.

The outline for the panel’s makeup was crafted by the military council and political groups last week, after the earlier committee was effectively disbanded following a court ruling. The objections may mean that the constitution won’t be completed in time for the planned end-of-June handover of power to a civilian government and that a president would come into office without clear guidelines on his authority.

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