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Egypt's Presidential Elections: Three Things to Know

Author: Isobel Coleman, Senior Fellow and Director of the Civil Society, Markets, and Democracy Initiative; Director of the Women and Foreign Policy Program, Council on Foreign Relations
May 24, 2012

As Egyptians cast votes in their first free presidential election, Isobel Coleman, director of CFR's Civil Society, Markets, and Democracy Initiative, highlights three ways in which it will shape the country's future:

  • A true debate: "It is the first time that the Egyptian people are casting their votes in an election where no one has any idea of what the outcome will be," Coleman emphasizes. The elections have therefore "sparked enormous conversation and debate over what is the future of Egypt," a question also closely followed across the entire Arab world, she says.
  • Islamists' test of power: While Egypt's Islamist parties, the Muslim Brotherhood and Al-Nour, together got more than 70 percent of the vote in the latest parliamentary elections, secular candidates have fared better in polls leading up to the presidential election. "This could be an indication that the preference for just voting for Islamist parties may have in fact peaked," Coleman says.
  • The president's role: Whoever is elected will help define the currently undefined role of the presidency through the process of crafting a new constitution. The president will also redefine the relationship between the presidency, the parliament, and the military, which still holds considerable political control.

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