Al-Ahram Weekly Online   14 - 20 April 2011
Issue No. 1043
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Moussa on top

A recent opinion poll has shown that Amr Moussa remains the frontrunner in the upcoming presidential elections and that the Muslim Brotherhood is unlikely to win a majority in parliament, reports Khaled Dawoud

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The first public opinion poll to be held in Egypt following the ousting of former president Hosni Mubarak has indicated that Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa remains the most favoured candidate were elections for the country's presidency to be held today.

The poll, conducted for the New York International Peace Institute (IPI) by Charney Research, was based on 615 telephone interviews among a random sample of adults across Egypt between 9 and 20 March 2011. The margin of error in the survey was +/- four per cent.

At a time when signs of friction have emerged between the ruling Higher Council of the Armed Forces (HCAF) and groups of protesters in Tahrir Square, the poll also showed that the Egyptian army remains very popular, with 77 per cent of those polled saying they held a favourable view of it.

Even though HCAF commander, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, is not officially a candidate for president and has announced he has no plans to stand, the IPI poll put Tantawi second as the most favoured candidate for the presidency after Moussa.

Thirty-seven per cent of those polled said they favoured Moussa for president, followed by 16 per cent for Tantawi, 12 for Egyptian-American scientist Ahmed Zuweil, seven for current Prime Minister Essam Sharaf, and five for former General Intelligence chief Omar Suleiman.

Youth leader Wael Ghoneim and former director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Mohamed El-Baradei got only two per cent support, followed by opposition figure and former presidential candidate Ayman Nour with one per cent.

The limited support for El-Baradei indicates, experts say, that the propaganda campaign against him undertaken by the former Mubarak regime, alleging that he was supported by the US, has managed to sway many people who originally welcomed his return from abroad.

Moussa, a former Egyptian foreign minister before taking over the Arab League post, also scored favourable views among those surveyed. In the poll, Moussa scored 80 per cent favourable views, followed by Zuweil at 76 per cent, Tantawi at 75 per cent, Sharaf at 62 per cent, Suleiman at 47 per cent, Ghoneim at 45 per cent, Nour at 32 percent and El-Baradei at 23 per-cent.

Surprisingly, Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Badie scored only 10 per cent favourable ratings despite the wide popularity of the group. In an obvious reflection of the public mood, former president Mubarak scored very low on the popularity rating at 17 per cent favourable and 71 per cent unfavourable.

Those taking part in the poll indicated that the positions of the youth groups who led the 25 January Revolution and the Muslim Brotherhood were likely to influence the voting in the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections.

Those questioned were hopeful that the elections would be free and fair as a result of their judicial supervision. Nearly 80 per cent of those questioned said that they would definitely vote, nearly four times the 2005 turnout and almost twice that in the 19 March referendum.

Economic hardship and the state of chaos that has followed the ousting of Mubarak did not seem to influence the general sense of optimism among those questioned.

Eighty-two per cent said they felt that Egypt was going in the right direction, compared to only 10 per cent who said it was going in the wrong direction. Seventy-nine per cent said they were satisfied with the interim government's performance.

Among those questioned, the biggest concern remained the state of the country's economy, followed by law and order and the fight against corruption. Issues such as women's rights, terrorism and freedom of speech came way down the list of public concerns. Two-thirds of those surveyed said they were likely to support moderate economic and foreign policies, as well as moderate parties and candidates.

The biggest surprise in the poll, according to those conducting it, came in response to a question about which political party was likely to gain the greatest support in the parliamentary elections scheduled for September.

The liberal Wafd Party had the highest rating of any party at 46 per cent, with the Muslim Brotherhood scoring next highest at 38 per cent favourable, but almost as many unfavourable.

The leftist Tagammu, the liberal Ghad, and the nationalist Nasserist parties were all in the 30s. Mubarak's old ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) maintained support at 26 per cent favourable, though it was also the only party whose unfavourable opinions were also high at 48 per cent.

The Brotherhood and the NDP were the best-known parties among those questioned, with only one person in four saying they did not know about them. Don't knows were in the 40s for the other parties.

According to the poll, the Wafd leads in voting intentions at 23 per cent, almost twice those of any other party. The Brotherhood came next at 12 per cent, followed by the NDP at 10. The Nasserists came next at five per cent, followed by the Tagammu and Ghad at one per cent each.

The survey indicated that liberal economic policies were much more attractive to the public than state control: any party favouring job creation through economic reforms, international trade and investment, and the wiping out of corruption would appeal strongly to three-fifths of those questioned. A party calling for protecting jobs through state control, subsidies and reversing privatisations would appeal strongly to just one in three.

In a finding that will assuage US concerns, the poll found that maintaining and advancing peace with Israel had far wider appeal than a rupture in relations. Any party that favoured keeping the peace treaty with Israel, a two-state solution in Palestine, and the Arab Peace Initiative would appeal to two-thirds of those questioned and strongly to almost half.

One that preferred to break the peace treaty and end diplomatic relations with Israel would appeal to just over one-third but would also make almost as many people less likely to support it.

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