- Middle East/North Africa
Presidential candidate Amr Moussa is consolidating his position as the favorite for more than 40 percent of Egyptians voters in the historical vote slated for 23 May, a new poll shows.
Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies surveyed Egyptians' favorite candidates for the election and published the results Monday.
The poll showed that the former Arab League chief is on top of the race, with 41.1 percent of poll participants who had decided on a candidate voting for him. Of the initially polled participants, 12.3 percent were undecided.
Moderate former Muslim Brotherhood member Abdel Moneim Abouel Fotouh came in second with 27.3 percent.
The center conducted the poll between 21 and 24 April, days before the start of the official campaign period, which started Monday. It surveyed 1,200 participants from almost all governorates in Egypt using direct interviews and reportedly has a 3 percent margin of error.
The total of votes for Moussa and Abouel Fotouh combined stood at 68.4 percent, which shows that the two could proceed to a runoff election.
Former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq came in third with 11.9 percent, followed by Karama Party chairman Hamdeen Sabbahi at 7.4 percent, Islamic legal expert Mohamed Selim al-Awa at 5.7 percent, and Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsy at 3.6 percent.
The results show Morsy faces a serious challenge, especially after failing to obtain support from Nour Party and other Salafi groups.
The Salafi Dawah, an influential hardline Islamist movement, and its political wing, the Nour Party, announced Saturday they would back Abouel Fotouh, hurting the Brotherhood's chances of winning the vote.
The poll was conducted before this announcement, but it acknowledged that if Abouel Fotouh is able to win the votes of the Nour Party and Salafi movements, he could move ahead by a significant margin.
The Moussa-Abouel Fotouh rivalry is apparently stronger in densely populated governorates, such as Cairo, Daqahlia, Sharqiya and Qalyubiya, according to the poll.
Abouel Fotouh enjoys wide support in Cairo, showing the urbanity of his voters' base. Moussa, on the other hand, relies on supporters in Upper Egypt's three main governorates: Assiut, Qena and Sohag.
Abouel Fotouh also has a stake in Upper Egypt's votes, enjoying remarkable support in the highly populated province of Minya, as well as in less-crowded governorates such as Beni Suef and Fayoum.
The distribution of Shafiq's backers is similar to that of the front-runners, lying mainly in populous governorates such as Cairo and Daqahlia.
But Shafiq enjoys the advantage of a significant electorate in Monufiya. He clearly leans on Lower Egypt voters more than Moussa and Abouel Fotouh, but suffers a clear weakness point in Upper Egypt.
More than 25 percent of votes for Sabbahi come from Kafr al-Sheikh governorate, which he represented in Parliament for more than one session, thus setting a unique pattern in the distribution of votes.
Cairo has one of the lowest rates of support for Morsy. A large portion of his supporters is centered in Daqahlia, followed by Beheira, Qalyubiya, Giza and Minya. All are governorates where the Brotherhood had its biggest victories in the parliamentary elections.
To a great extent, the map of Morsy's backers matches that of the Brotherhood's strongholds, thus mirroring the group's commitment to stand by its candidate despite his failure to win voters from outside the group.
Four pivotal factors could change the vote and will be monitored by the center over the next weeks: electoral campaigns, debates, the role of political parties and defamation campaigns that are likely to fire up in the coming period.