(CAIRO) — Despite a lower administrative court’s decision Wednesday to suspend the election planned for May 23 and 24, the two leading Egyptian presidential candidates faced off Thursday for an unprecedented televised debate.
During the four-hour broadcast of the Arab world’s first-ever presidential debate, according to BBC News, Egypt’s most popular talk show hosts grilled the two expected front-runners, Amr Moussa, former head of the Arab League, and moderate Islamist Abdul Monmeim Fotouh on the topics of education, jobs and health care. But the questions that engaged many viewers had more to do with how to avoid becoming a dictator.
When asked what authorities a president needs and does not need in order to avoid dictatorship, Moussa replied that future presidents would be bound, constitutionally, to two terms. He also suggested that upholding a democratic system would not bring another dictator.
Fotouh said that he supports a presidential/parliamentary system with limited powers of the president, but had objected to the parliamentary system because it is too early for political parties to get on their feet and share power.
The two candidates also challenged one another on their ties to the former government under ousted leader Hosni Mubarak, BBC News reported.
“Vote for me because I represent national unity and the 25 January spirit without which we cannot build the country….Don’t vote for the one who was against the revolution,” Fotouh said, according to BBC News.
Moussa also appealed to voters, telling them, “Vote for me because I have been tested, I have experience. This proved to have been marked by honesty and devotion.”
Egypt has existed in a power vacuum since President Hosni Mubarak was forced out of office in February 2011 and a military council has ruled the country, much to the chagrin of Egyptians desperate for free and open elections.
Both Moussa and Fotouh decried the ruling to suspend the election.
If the original election dates are reinstated, a runoff vote will be held on June 16 and 17 in the event that no single candidate wins an outright majority, with Egypt’s next president formally named four days later.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Paul Cruickshank and Michael Pearson, CNN