Egypt's presidential election has entered its official three-week campaign phase, with a survey pointing to a two-way race between veteran Arab diplomat Amr Moussa and Islamist Abdel Moneim Abol Fotouh.
Egypt's state-run newspaper al-Ahram published a survey on Monday showing former foreign minister Amr Moussa and moderate Islamist Abdel Moneim Abol Fotouh clearly ahead of 11 other candidates.
Egypt's first round of voting is due on May 23-24. It's likely to be followed by a run-off in June.
The poll conducted by the al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies put Moussa with 41 percent, comfortably ahead of Abol Fotouh with 27 percent.
In third place with nearly 12 percent was former air force commander Ahmed Shafiq. He was the last prime minister to deposed former president Hosni Mubarak.
Policy mix of social justice and growth
Moussa, now aged 75, once served as Egyptian foreign minister and then led the Arab League from 2001 until last year. His 80-page policy manifesto calls for economic growth, eradication of illiteracy and the removal of Egypt's long-running state of emergency.
Abol Fotouh, a one-time student activist, split from the Muslim Brotherhood last year and has pitched to secular Egyptians and Islamists. He has stressed economic and social justice and promised increased health and education spending.
He received a boost on Monday, when a former jihadist group, Gamaa Islamiya, said it would back Abol Fatouh. Last week, he got similar support from an ultra-conservative Salafist group.
Jidhadists restrain Brotherhood
Senior Gamaa spokesman Assem Abdel-Maged said with the Brotherhood's holding nearly half of the seats in parliament after elections held four months ago, Gamaa felt it would be "too much" for the Brotherhood to also gain the presidency.
Support for Abol Fatouh also came on Monday from a liberal Internet activist Wael Ghonim, who is also well-regarded by secular-minded youth. Ghonim became a public figure during Egypt's Arab Spring uprising of February 2011 when he described his detention under the Mubarak regime.
The Brotherhood, which initially opted not to field a nominee, has its own candidate, Mohammed Mursi.
Since Mubarak's ouster, Egypt's generals have ruled in the interim, punctuated by sometimes violent street protest, economic downturn, and a wrangle between the Brotherhood and the military over who should appoint the cabinet.
Egypt's top presidential candidates are to make an unprecedented joint appearance at a televised debate on Thursday. Pollsters cautioned that many Egyptians are still undecided on how to vote.
ipj/acb (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)