x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Egypt's military checks political popularity with Facebook poll

List of potential presidential candidates in Facebook voting includes at least four ex-military officers, alongside Islamists, judges, diplomats and others.

CAIRO // Egypt's military rulers have launched an online poll to test the popularity of potential presidential candidates, a move analysts said may be aimed at judging appetite for getting a former officer back in the post.

The list on Facebook includes at least four ex-military officers, alongside Islamists, judges, diplomats and others.

Most have declared they will run, including two former officers. Others named have not declared but are often cited by the media or the public as possible candidates, including former prime minister and air force commander Ahmed Shafiq and Omar Suleiman, former intelligence chief and briefly vice president.

The military supplied Egypt's rulers for the past six decades. A military council is acting as a transitional authority after Hosni Mubarak, a former air force chief, was driven out by protests on February 11.

The army has vowed to transfer power to civilians but many ordinary Egyptians question whether the army will be ready to go back to their barracks and accept civilian command.

Nabil Abdel Fattah, a researcher at Al Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies, said: "This is meant to test the people's opinion to see if they would accept a candidate related to the military or not."

The army denies any plan to hold onto power after elections, first for parliament in September and then for the presidency.

The ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces said on the page that its initiative was aimed at "communicating with the great Egyptian people and the youth of the revolution".

Mr Abdel Fattah said: "There is an ongoing debate among Egyptians and political powers on the role of the army after elections that remains to be clarified. The army says it wants to be an independent body but does not explain what this means." At least 10 Egyptians have so far said they plan to run for president.