CAIRO, July 30 (AFP) - With Hosni Mubarak's re-election a foregone conclusion, the toughest battle of Egypt's first contested presidential poll is being fought over party symbols, a major vote-winner in a country where illiteracy is rampant.
Each candidate wishing to run in the September 7 election for the country's top job has to choose the symbol that will appear alongside his name on the ballots.
But only one will be allowed to use the coveted moon crescent (hilal in Arabic), an Islamic symbol several candidates, including to the two frontrunners, want as the logo for their campaign.
Ayman Nur, who heads the Ghad (Tomorrow) party and is presented as the most serious obstacle to President Mubarak's re-election, was the first to enter the electoral commission when it opened on Friday.
He registered his candidacy and therefore claimed his right to using the Islamic crescent as his symbol.
Yet Mubarak's ruling National Democratic Party, which has used the crescent as its symbol in previous elections, claimed that the president's lawyer, Mohammed Dakruri, was the first to register at the electoral commission.
An AFP photographer at the commission said Mubarak's representative did not show up until several hours after Nur completed his registration process.
"It's a huge scandal, the crescent is ours," Nur's wife and spokeswoman Gamila Ismail told AFP. She added that if her husband was barred from using the crescent, he would opt for the palm tree.
Three other candidates who were less swift to file their candidacies also chose the crescent: Osama Shaltut, Sabri Abdel Aziz and Wahed al-Uksuri, all of them representing minor parties.
So it seems the electoral commission, which has been accused of being stacked by presidential cronies, has its first scandal. Let's see how it resolves it.