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EGYPT: Mixed reactions toward Coptic presidential candidate

September 15, 2009 | 10:55 am


The chances of a Coptic Christian ruling Egypt are nearly impossible, but that hasn't stopped Mamdouh Ramzi, a lawyer with a shock of white hair, from announcing his candidacy in the 2011 presidential elections.

Ramzi declared earlier in the week that he will be the country's first Coptic candidate for president. While most Muslims, who represent 90% of the country's population, will not likely vote for a Christian candidate, Ramzi has the political and religious classes chattering.

The ruling National Democratic Party, which has been criticized by human rights groups for stifling political opposition, contends  that Ramzi's candidacy is a strong sign of how the NDP has promoted democracy and equality between Muslims and other religious minorities in Egypt. Ramzi belongs to the little-known Constitution Party, which -- unlike the Muslim Brotherhood, whose members are frequently imprisoned -- poses no threat to the NDP.

"Any Egyptian, whether Christian or Muslim, has the right to run in the presidential elections as long as he or she fulfills the constitutional terms," said Gehad Ouda, a member of the NDP's policies committee.

Pundits believe that Ramzi's decision to stand in the elections is no more than an attempt to promote his business as a lawyer. But the head of the NPD's youth committee, Mohamed Heiba, stressed that Egyptians have enough political awareness to choose the right candidate without falling to any person's hidden agenda.

The Rev. Refaat Fekri of the Evangelical church said Ramzi's candidacy is a major step toward introducing full and equal citizenship in Egypt, before admitting that it would be impossible to see a Christian rule Egypt. In 2005, Adli Abadir, an Egyptian Copt living in Switzerland, announced he would run in that year's presidential race. But he withdrew before the elections.

-- Amro Hassan in Cairo

Photo: Mamdouh Ramzi. Credit: Al Youm Al Sabee