Qena sees in Suleiman its first homegrown ruler since the pharaohs

Presidential hopeful Omar Suleiman has in the last few days garnered wide support from citizens in the Upper Egyptian governorate of Qena, where he was born.

Eyewitnesses told Egypt Independent that banners with the image of Suleiman have begun to be hung in various villages across the tribally dominated governorate.

Suleiman comes from the Owaidat village in the city of Qaft. He belongs to the influential “Arab” tribe, which some local commentators describe as the largest tribe in Qena, estimated to have more than half a million members.

Major tribes in Qena are trying to garner support for his bid, depending on the tribal nature of the Upper Egyptian governorate.

"The Movement for the Support of Major General Omar Suleiman” said it is coordinating with tribes in Qena and Red Sea Governorate to support the former spy chief in the election.

Al-Ahram’s website cited Mohamed Afify, the coordinator for the campaign supporting Suleiman's bid, as saying that tribes are inclined to support Suleiman.

He added that a wide swath of the society in Qena will support Suleiman's bid, particularly because “Qena has not had any of its residents lead the country since the pharaonic era.”

Qena is famous for a strong tribal-dominated culture that highly influences the political choices of the electorate. However, Islamists managed to achieve unprecedented victories in Qena in the previous parliamentary elections, winning most of the 18 seats allocated to the governorate.

The 75-year-old Suleiman led the General Intelligence Services for 18 years, and then was appointed by President Hosni Mubarak as vice president days before last year's uprising toppled the leader's rule.

Islamists have been launching a fierce campaign against Suleiman, with the newspaper of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party referring to him in a headline as "Mubarak No. 2."

Salah Ragab, a teacher from the city of Qena, told Egypt Independent in a phone interview that people in various villages have begun to hang banners bearing Suleiman’s image, especially in his home village.

On Monday, Youssef Ragab, a reporter for the Sada al-Balad website, said the village residents will endorse Suleiman even though he has neglected their village.

The reporter said that much like the rest of the villages in Upper Egypt, Owaidat village suffers from neglect, with unpaved roads, contaminated water and decrepit electricity networks.

He said that the residents of the village will vote for Suleiman in the hope that he will drag them out of their misery.

In a recently conducted poll of who Egyptians support for president, Suleiman came in fourth with 8.2 percent of the votes, behind former Arab League chief Amr Moussa (30.7 percent), ultraconservative Salafi preacher Hazem Salah Abu Ismail (28.8 percent) and dissident Muslim Brotherhood member Abdel Moneim Abouel Fotouh (8.5 percent).

However, the poll was conducted before Suleiman announced he would run.

The poll, conducted by Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, showed that Suleiman appears to rely strongly on less-educated voters, who make up 47.2 percent of his supporters. These voters represent 38 percent of Egypt’s population.

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