Ahmed Shafiq (b. 1941) is probably the most divisive candidate in 2012 Egypt presidential elections. Shafiq was the last prime minister appointed by former President Hosni Mubarak in a desperate attempt to appease the anti-government uprising in January 2011. Shafiq is widely seen as the favored candidate of Egypt’s military, his “law and order” campaign closely associated with the remnants of Mubarak’s order.See here for profiles of other top candidates.
Policies: Gradual Transition
- Military: Shafiq advocates gradual, smooth transition from military rule. It is unclear whether he would be willing to offer the military any special political powers in the new constitution.
- Economy: As most other candidates, Shafiq offered no detailed blueprint for salvaging Egyptian economy. He has the support of some big businessmen who seem him close to neo-liberal policies of late Mubarak era, and has promised to tax army’s extensive business ventures.
- Foreign policy: Shafiq would guarantee continuity in Egypt’s foreign partnerships. Speaking on Egypt’s 1979 peace treaty with Israel, Shafiq said: “I object to Israel’s current actions, but I am a man who honours past agreements”.
- Religion: Shafiq is a staunch secularist who opposes calls for greater role for religion in the new constitution.
Background: A military Man & Technocrat
Just like his former boss and friend Mubarak, Shafiq is a military man: a veteran of Egypt’s wars with Israel and a commander of the Air Force between 1996-2002. There are few better networking places in Egypt than the military, and in 2002 Shafiq was appointed by Mubarak to the Ministry of Civil Aviation in 2002, the position he held until the outbreak of protests in 2011.
Shafiq was not an ordinary apparatchik, nor was he associated with the most kleptocratic circles of Mubarak's regime. He’s perhaps best described as the technocratic face of Mubarak's government, having been credited with the restructuring of Egypt’s national carrier and with the extension of Cairo Airport.
Electoral Strength: Government Experience
Shafiq is the only candidate with extensive ministerial experience. He has cultivated an image of a straight-talking, no-nonsense civil servant, often at odds with the yes-men of Mubarak’s cabinets.
The “Actions, not words” campaigning slogan casts Shafiq as a man who will restore law and order, and bring back stability. Shafiq, who expresses pride in being a “son of the armed forces”, says his military background makes him uniquely places to negotiate the transition of power from the Supreme Council of Armed Forces to elected civilian authorities.
Weakness: Mubarak’s Man
Shafiq’s close association with Mubarak’s establishment inspires intense opposition among large numbers of Egyptians who accuse Shafiq of running on behalf of Egypt’s elite in the former ruling National Democratic Party (NDP), with the aim of reversing the gains of the 2011 uprising.
Pro-democracy activists, Islamists, leftists and many liberals say Shafiq’s presidency would cement the influence of the military on the new political system, and some have threatened with new protests should he win the elections.Read more on why Egyptian generals still run the show.
Support: The "Law and Order" Vote
Shafiq can count on the support of the establishment that fears radical changes in Egyptian society: the army, security apparatus, former NDP cadres and senior civil servants.
But don't write off his base as a privileged minority. Shafiq will try to win over Egyptians of different social backgrounds who resent the success of Muslim Brotherhood at 2011 legislative elections, or simply want a strong pair of hands to deal with rising criminality and unrest that has crippled the economy during Egypt’s messy transition.Current Situation in the Middle East / Egypt