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Egypt puts a presidential poll on Facebook

Associated Press / June 22, 2011

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CAIRO — Egypt’s military rulers have posted a Facebook poll to gauge the popularity of nearly 20 presidential hopefuls, an attempt to show their commitment to a democratic transition in the face of rising criticism of their management of the country.

The governing council’s outreach to the public on the political process was a novelty after three decades of authoritarian rule by the ousted president Hosni Mubarak, who is accused of overseeing a corrupt system.

Skeptics, who say the military is just perpetuating the Mubarak regime’s tight controls on politics, suspect the poll is a way for the generals to promote their favorite candidate.

Political analyst Emad Gad also suggested the military may be shopping for candidates. “Maybe the military is thinking about backing one candidate and wants to get an indication about the relative weight of the candidates,’’ he said.

Elections under Mubarak were consistently marred by fraud and rigging. The first parliamentary elections since Mubarak was ousted on Feb. 11 in a popular uprising are expected in September. The date for the presidential elections is not yet clear. According to the initial timetable set in the military-sponsored plan, the vote should be by year’s end.

The online survey, which had garnered more than 100,000 responses by yesterday, listed 18 possible candidates, including Mohamed ElBaradei, who helped lead the push for reforms; the first female hopeful, Bothaina Kamel; and former regime officials. Most prominent among the group of 18 is the country’s former intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman, whom Mubarak appointed as his first vice president in one of his final attempts to cling to power.

As of yesterday, ElBaradei was in the lead with 35 percent of the votes, followed by prominent Islamic scholar Mohammed Selim al-Awa.

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