The presidential election campaign in Egypt is under way. Thirteen candidates are competing for the job held for 30 years by Hosni Mubarak. The first round of the elections takes place on May 23 and 24. But so far no clear leaders have emerged.
Polling suggests that the main divide runs between Islamist candidates and those associated with the Mubarak regime. Among the former, the most likely contenders are Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, a former member in the Guidance Bureau of the Muslim Brotherhood, and Mohamed Morsi, the current candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood. Those associated with the old regime include Amr Moussa, the ex-foreign minister and former secretary-general of the Arab League, and Ahmed Shafiq, Mubarak's last prime minister. But the recent decision by the High Electoral Commission to exclude the previous front-runners on a variety of technical grounds has thrown the race into confusion.
We hear a lot about Egypt in the news these days, but we rarely have an opportunity to hear what Egyptians themselves think about what's happening in their country. So we at Democracy Lab decided to ask Egyptians from all walks of life about their presidential preferences. On the eve of Egypt's first-ever presidential debate, we present some of their responses -- with a minimum of editorial intervention:
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"The people are confused. If they elect a candidate from the former regime, does that mean that the country will go back to the way it was? But if they elect a candidate from the Islamists, they don't know what course the country's going to take, since the Islamists have no experience of actually being in power, and they have a tendency towards violence."
Saeed Abdul Aal, mid-40s, teacher from Izzbet El-Nakhel, north Cairo.
"Mubarak didn't allow any other politicians to share the stage. He systematically eliminated anyone who was capable of competing with him. If you ban people from playing football in the neighborhood for a while, and then you allow them to play it again, their skills will be weak at first. Over time, the level of candidates will improve."
Mohammed Hassan Ali, 38, welder from Izzbet El-Nakhel.
Vote: Aboul Fotouh.
"Drivers spend nearly half a day waiting for a turn at the gas station. You work for a day and then you have to spend another day to get gas. If this country isn't reformed, it will explode."
"Look at this vast desert we've got here. All that land is controlled by a small number of people who don't use it. If one of the candidates announces that he will redistribute the unused land to the people, so that it can be used, I'll vote for him."
"The Muslim Brotherhood is very influential in the countryside. People here expect their problems to be solved by God and the Brotherhood. For example, in religious festivals, Brotherhood Member of Parliament Abdul Aziz Khalaf buys clothes for the poor. He doesn't charge people who can't afford to pay for medicine from his pharmacy. No matter what else you hear about the Brotherhood, they're people who aren't going to change their minds."
Mahmoud Abu-Dahab, taxi driver from Assuit, 370 kilometers south of Cairo.