Muslim Brotherhood Hopeful Rises Before Egypt Election

The Muslim Brotherhood’s presidential hopeful edged into third place in a poll today as campaigning drew to a close for the first election for Egypt’s top post since Hosni Mubarak was ousted from power.

Mohamed Mursi, the head of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, pushed past rival Islamist candidate Abdel-Moneim Aboul-Fotouh in the presidential ballot slated to begin May 23, according to the latest poll by the Ahram Center for Strategic and Political Studies. Still holding the lead was former Arab League chief Amre Moussa, while Ahmed Shafik, who served as Mubarak’s premier in the regime’s final days, was second.

The election will be crucial in determining the country’s economic future after a year of unrest that has stifled growth and sent tourism revenues and foreign investment plummeting. A $3.2 billion loan requested from the International Monetary Fund in January has yet to be approved, despite predictions by Cabinet ministers that the government could have the first $1 billion tranche by the beginning of July.

“The fund is asking for societal consensus and you know the circumstances given the presidential election,” Finance Minister Momtaz el-Saieed said today by phone. “Let’s be patient.” Asked if the IMF believed that this consensus was lacking, el-Saieed said: “This is its point of view.” He provided no timeline for a possible agreement.

Power Struggle

A struggle for power between the Islamist-dominated parliament and the Cabinet has impeded attempts to secure the loan, which Egyptian officials say is necessary to attract additional donor aid. Freedom and Justice Party officials have said they don’t want any IMF money spent by the interim government appointed by the country’s military rulers. The IMF has requested broad support for a loan-related economic plan to ensure it is implemented beyond the transitional period.

Concluding a presidential election may have a “positive” effect on the loan talks as it provides more clarity, Alia Mamdouh, an economist at Cairo-based investment bank CI Capital, said by phone. “I think the IMF wants to see the political structure set before they give the money,” she said.

During the months of political infighting, Egypt’s fiscal position has deteriorated. Egyptian pound one-year currency forwards were at 7.600 to the U.S. dollar on May 18, their weakest level in at least five years, according to Bloomberg data. Meanwhile, average yields on nine-month treasury bills climbed to 15.863 percent today compared with 15.828 percent in the last sale of similar maturities, the Finance Ministry said on its website.

Voting Schedule

Campaigning officially ends today. About 50.4 million Egyptians are eligible to vote in the two-day ballot, according to the state-run Al-Ahram newspaper. If no candidate wins an outright majority, run-offs between the two leading contenders will start on June 16.

Shafik, who has run on a law-and-order platform, told the official Middle East News Agency today that Islamists had proven through their hold on parliament that all they want is “to usurp power and hegemony over all the institutions” in the country.

The Brotherhood and some of the youth groups that played a leading role in last year’s uprising have accused Shafik and Moussa of seeking to restore the old regime, assertions both men have repeatedly denied.

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