There was general consensus in Cairo in early April that Egypt was quietly coming apart without the world noticing and that two men had the best chance of being elected president next month and saving the country from advancing calamity. One was former Egyptian foreign minister Amr Musa, 74, who was later appointed Arab League Secretary; and ex-intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, also aged 74. Both served under the ousted president Hosni Mubarak and for his last two weeks in power, Suleiman served as the ousted president’s VP.
It was also commonly agreed that the ruling military council, the SCAF, would not tamely let the presidency pass into the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood or the ultra-radical Salafists, after the two Islamist parties gained 75 percent of the Egyptian parliament in elections held at the end of 2011 and the beginning of this year.
This certainty was borne out when Egypt’s election commission Tuesday, April 17, upheld an earlier ban on the three front-runners, Suleiman, the Muslim Brotherhood’s senior strategist Khairat al-Shater and the Salafi hard-line preacher Abu Ismail and rejected their appeals.
Fellow generals gulled Suleiman into a no-hope situation
DEBKA-Net-Weekly's sources in Cairo disclose that the episode was choreographed from start to finish by SCAF chief Field Marshal Mohammed Tantawi and Egyptian Intelligence Minister Gen. Murad Mowafi with the ulterior motive of using his candidacy to block the rise of an Islamist president.
Omar Suleiman first announced on April 5 that he had decided against running for president because Egyptian politics was a shambles and he lacked the funding and organization for a campaign.
The next day, after spending hours in secret meetings SCAF generals, Suleiman came out with a new announcement: He had changed his mind and would start lining up his campaign team. Our sources report he was persuaded to run for office by Tantawi and Mowafi who argued that if he stood down, the Muslim Brotherhood was bound to win the election hands down and within a short time would not only own the presidency but also move in and take over the military.
Suleiman’s election as president was essential to stem this dangerous development.
He was won over by a SCAP pledge of the funds and organization for winning the election.
Those promises were not meant to be kept – as the former spy-chief soon discovered.
By law, a presidential candidate was required to sign on for the race by submitting to the election committee a list of 30,000 supporters. However, the list the military provided was a messy compendium of inaccurate names, false ID numbers and addresses and 31 names short of a full list of supporters.
Suleiman and the two radical Islamists were ruled ineligible to run for election.
Amr Musa shoots ahead as front runner
The ex-spy chief and his former colleagues in intelligence have since deduced that he was a pawn in an underhand scheme hatched by Tantawi and Mowafi. To knock the two Islamists out of the running, they needed to disqualify a candidate representing the army at the same time. Otherwise, they would be exposed to Egyptian popular charges of persecuting the Islamic leaders and therefore no better than the president they ousted.
Their argument for persuading Suleiman to throw his hat in the ring was just as false. The Islamist contenders were not by any means assured of winning the presidency. Our sources report that all the polls canvassing Egyptian opinion, public and confidential, have come up with a majority of voters who were too shocked by the Islamist takeover of parliament to hand them the presidency as well.
The biggest mystery of all is how did the wily, well-seasoned political fox, who engineered Mubarak’s elections and their results, come to fall in the pit placed at his feet by the two generals without catching on to the trap.
In the end, SCAF leaders got the results they were aiming for: With Suleiman out of the running, Amr Musa, whose campaign has so far been weak and tentative, never attaining more than 12 percent popular support, has suddenly shot ahead as the favorite.
Some Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist followers have even decided he is the right man to lead post-revolutionary Egypt and boosted his support at the time of this writing past 35 percent.