Amre Moussa: A Mubarak holdover makes his case

Presidential candidate Amre Moussa served as foreign minister under Hosni Mubarak and headed the Arab League.

Story highlights

  • Amre Moussa has had a long diplomatic career
  • He gained popularity by criticizing Israel when he was Hosni Mubarak's foreign minister
  • He appeals to a wide spectrum of Egyptian voters
  • He says Egypt needs a leader with experience but some see him as a regime holdover
Amre Moussa sweeps through chaotic crowds in Egypt's Beheira province, hailed in the pandemonium by his supporters as "ar-rayis," the president.
In the nation's first democratic presidential election, Moussa is one of a few candidates who can boast of any practical government experience. He served as foreign minister under Hosni Mubarak and headed the Arab League. Now, he's one of the top contenders in the voting to be held Wednesday and Thursday.
Experience, however, can be a thorn in a nation where 18 days of fervent, anti-government uprising last year toppled Mubarak's decades-long dictatorship.
Moussa, 75, is intent on turning that liability into gain.
"They have to select and elect a president who can do the job, not a president beginner who will just get into learning or quarreling with others," Moussa says between campaign stops through Egypt's Nile Delta region.
And he has been trying to reassure Egyptians that a vote for him is not a betrayal of the revolution.
"We want to ensure that every citizen in all of Egypt -- in the north, south, east and west -- that the state is moving in the right way to progress and to respond to people's requirements," he said in a televised debate earlier this month.
Moussa's message has been resonating with Egyptians in all sectors of society. Among them the wealthy industrialists and Coptic Christians who believe Moussa can help stem the tide of Islamism.
But Moussa also has support in poorer, more densely populated provinces, where people long for the stability associated with the old regime.
"We need a leader to steer this ship and Amre Moussa can do it," says Suhair, a nurse in the Delta. "He's a diplomat. He's been around the world and can work with other countries to help Egypt."
Campaign manager Hisham Youssef says supporters see Moussa as a healing force in a turbulent time.
"He has been working on issues pertaining to reconciliation all over the Arab world for the last decade or two," Youssef told NPR. "So this is one of the reasons why he can be instrumental in trying to achieve the objective of reconciliation and healing at a time when Egypt needs that most."
Moussa graduated in 1957 from Cairo University with a law degree. The following year, he joined Egypt's foreign ministry, launching a long career in diplomacy.
He served as Egypt's ambassador to the United Nations as well as to India bef