The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Whose candidate is Amr Moussa?

It's just been announced, unsurprisingly, that Amr Moussa intends to run for the Egyptian presidency when elections take place, most probably late this year. In many respects, Moussa is well-positioned to win: he's the best-known of the slate of names that has been popping up of late, with a reputation for straight-talking and toughness towards Israel from his days as Egypt's foreign minister. Since the rumor was that Mubarak kicked him upstairs to Secretary-General of the Arab League because he was getting too popular, there is an impression that he was not close to the former president. He has gravitas, since he's been seen powowing with world leaders for two decades now, and even a certain macho concept of manliness that politicians like John McCain like to strut about — the equivalent of being seen as "tough" in the American context. It's something others, such as Mohammed ElBaradei, don't have.

Unfortunately, his election to the presidency would be a great disapointment for the many Egyptians who want serious change. 

Moussa and his creepy al-Saud friendsThe question to ask is, what exactly does Amr Moussa represent? Whose party is he a candidate for? I would suggest the following: 

  • A candidate that serves the interests of the Armed Forces, in that Moussa is a career apparatchik with no particular track record as a democrat or someone willing to stand up to the military.
  • A candidate that would generally satisfy much of the Egyptian elite, in that — again because he's an apparatchik — he's accustomed to the way power is brokered among this elite. Some might want someone with stronger neo-liberal credentials, but that game is up for a few years anyway.
  • A candidate that will worry some in Israel, but will generally preserve the status quo in the Camp David framework and work well with whoever is in power in Tel Aviv, except perhaps Avigdor Lieberman (but who could work with him anyway?)
  • A candidate that will please nationalist sentiment in Egypt but generally not change the rapport with Washington.
  • A candidate who will make other Arab regimes, most notably Saudi Arabia, much reassured about post-January 25 Egypt, its role in the region, and the challenge it poses to the al-Sauds. 

Amr Moussa represents the past. He's appealing because he's a known quantity at an uncertain time. And he's argument number one for why you need alternatives to get their names and faces known, because right now, the only person known to most Egyptians and seen as presidentiable is Moussa. And that's a scary fact.