Egypt's presidential debate pitted political Islam against the old establishment
There are 13 candidates running for president in Egypt but only two squared off in an historic 4 hour debate yesterday.
Former Mubarak foreign minister Amr Moussa and former member of the Muslim Brotherhood - now "moderate" Islamist Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh were the only candidates on stage for the televised event. Even the Brotherhood candidate, Mohammed Morsi, was absent.
The two represent the divide emerging in Egypt; revolutionary political Islam versus the establishment.
The exchange between Mr. Moussa and Mr. Aboul Fotouh, who are considered the frontrunners, became heated at times. Aboul Fotouh sought to portray Moussa as a member of the former regime, and Moussa brought up Aboul Fotouh's background in the Muslim Brotherhood and shot him questions about religion in an attempt to stir doubt in those wary of political Islam. "My point of reference is the nation. Your point of reference is the Brotherhood," Moussa said at one point. Aboul Fotouh said "The one who created the problem cannot solve it."
They also discussed the role of sharia, or Islamic law, in the state; the military's position in politics; and Egypt's peace treaty with Israel, which both promised to review.
Aboul Fotouh, a reformist within the Brotherhood who was expelled last year when he went against the group's leaders to announce his presidential bid, appealed to revolutionary types who participated in or supported Egypt's protests, even as he sought to placate the ultraconservative Islamists who have endorsed him in a strategic move against the Brotherhood.
Moussa, who was widely popular during his tenure as foreign minister for his hard stance on Israel, appeared to aim his rhetoric at those who are tired of ongoing unrest and protests and crave stability.
Fotouh has already stated that he believes Sharia law should be implemented and enshrined in the new constitution. Moussa does not reject Sharia but believes there are more important challenges facing Egypt. With both candidates actively hostile to Israel, the outlook for relations between the two countries is not good.
The first vote is scheduled for May 23 and if no candidate receives an absolute majority, the top two will face off in another election in June.