Egypt, the original heart of the Arab Spring, goes to the polls this Wednesday and Thursday to elect a new president, and the Obama administration’s favored choice, Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, may emerge the victor. “He could be the president who puts Egypt on a path towards genuine democracy,” says one U.S. official. But the self-styled “liberal” Islamist is no moderate.
One of the two front-running candidates (along with Amr Moussa, 75, a former foreign minister under Mubarak and most recently secretary-general of the Arab League), Fotouh, 61, is a doctor and former member of the Muslim Brotherhood, whose political party took nearly 50 percent of the seats in parliamentary elections and is the best-organized political force in the country. He served for 25 years in the Brotherhood’s leadership body before being expelled last year when he defied the group’s leaders to run for the presidency.
Fotouh is described as a reformist member of the organization, and as such has received support from younger Brothers, even though the Brotherhood is putting forth its own candidate, Mohammed Morsi. Fotouh is viewed as more liberal than the other Islamists in the race, prompting comparisons to Turkey’s Recep Erdogan. That would be the same Erdogan who proclaimed that “there is no moderate Islam,” who advised Turkish immigrants in Europe that “assimilation is a crime against humanity,” who has taken an increasingly bellicose stance toward Israel – and who is a favorite of Obama in the Middle East.