By Heba Fahmy
CAIRO: Presidential hopeful ex-IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei swept Egypt’s ruling army’s Facebook poll on preferred presidential hopefuls, winning 36 percent of almost 70,000 votes at press time.
But not everyone approved the army’s decision to create the poll in the first place.
“This poll is completely unacceptable and uncalled for and can even be considered unethical,” professor of political campaigning at the faculty of mass communication at Cairo University, Safwat El-Alem, told Daily News Egypt.
“This is an extremely dangerous step by the army to get involved in a poll on presidential hopefuls, when it’s the ruler of the country now,” he added.
The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) was took power on Feb.11 after president Hosni Mubarak was forced to step down following an 18-day popular revolt.
El-Alem explained that this could raise speculation that SCAF is biased towards a certain potential candidate, which would increase the rift between the army and the people.
The poll started on June 19 and will run till July 19, according to a statement posted by the army’s Facebook page on Sunday night. Users of the social networking site can choose from 18 potential candidates featured in the poll. Candidates can be added or removed from the poll throughout the month.
El-Alem said that the people who haven’t decided which candidate to vote for can be influenced by the results of the poll, adding that the presidential hopefuls who decide to run after July 19 won’t have the same exposure or opportunity to appear in the poll like the others.
“This defies the ethics of political campaigning and providing equal opportunities to all presidential candidates,” he added.
Other critics of the poll noted that its results are misleading since on Facebook anyone around the world can participate and it would be impossible to gauge how many of the participants are actually Egyptians eligible to vote, noting that army and police personnel are not allowed to vote in real elections.
The SCAF poll showed that prominent Islamic thinker Mohamed Selim Al-Awa, came in second place winning 20 percent of votes, while former member of the Muslim Brotherhood, Abdel-Moniem Aboul-Fotouh, won only three percent, coming in sixth place.
The Muslim Brotherhood had another member in the poll, lawyer and Islamic preacher Hazem Salah Abou Ismail, who raked nine percent of the vote, coming in fourth place.
The poll included prominent figures of the former regime, such as former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq, who got 12 percent of the vote at third place, and former intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman, four percent at sixth place, although they haven’t officially announced their intentions to run for the presidency.
The SCAF explained that that the poll included figures who announced their plans to run in the presidential election and others who were suggested by the media or the public.
The Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa came in fifth place winning only six percent while former chairman of the Appeals Court, Hisham El-Bastawisy won two percent.
Head of Al-Ghad Party Ayman Nour, former assistant foreign minister Abdallah Al-Ashaal, and TV journalist Bouthaina Kamel, the only female candidate so far, won one percent of the votes. Only less than a few hundred, sometimes a few dozen, voted for former military chief of staff Magdy Hatata, former Zamalek board chairman and lawyer Mortada Mansour and TV presenter Tawfiq Okasha.
The army’s statement stressed that its Facebook page wasn’t hacked and that recurring technical difficulties were a result of the heavy user traffic on the poll.
El-Alem, however, called on SCAF not to interfere in any way in the upcoming presidential elections even if it’s through polls.