Won't get fooled again?

University students in a Cairo voting line were still debating whom to vote for.
University students in a Cairo voting line were still debating whom to vote for. (TRUDY RUBIN / Staff)
Posted: May 25, 2012

CAIRO - When I interviewed young veterans of the January revolt in voter lines, and cafés, they all saw the vote as an extension of the revolution. They all rejected the so-called faloul candidates, with links to the past regime, meaning former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq and ex-Foreign Minister Amr Moussa. Several said they would go back to the streets if Shafiq won. "We still have Tahrir," one young sales representative for the Cadbury food group told me. "If there will be injustice, we will go again."

I found most of these young people divided in their vote between the moderate Islamist Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh and the nationalist Hamdeen Sabahi, who harks back to Egypt's hero of the 1950s and 1960s, Gamal Abdel Nasser, and pours on the anti-American and anti-Israel rhetoric. Students told me they liked Hamdeen, as they call him, because he calls for social justice and is neither faloul nor Islamist. But some are opting for Aboul Fotouh, because they think, as a "moderate" Islamist, he can outflank the Muslim Brotherhood - and also because he presents himself as a unifier who will listen to all sides.

But any new president is going to have to address the rising unemployment among Egyptian youth. Sabahi wants to return to the days of expanding the state job sector, but Egypt can't afford that.

Unemployment among young people is over 20 percent and climbing, including many university graduates. Any new Egyptian leader who can't provide young people with more jobs will face the prospect of a new revolt in Tahrir Square.

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