EGYPT. As others have fallen by the wayside, Amr Moussa stepped up his campaign for the Egyptian presidency on Wednesday, going to a Cairo slum to launch his manifesto in a bid to win over voters, whose choices have been narrowed down in only a few days.
With just a few weeks to go before the historic vote to fill the post from which Hosni Mubarak was ousted 14 months ago, Moussa's well-organized campaign and wide name recognition give him a head start: he is an ex-Arab League secretary general and served as Egypt's foreign minister for a decade.
His chances have been further improved by a spate of disqualifications that have forced out rivals including Omar Suleiman, Mubarak's spy chief whose last minute decision to run risked splitting Moussa's support base among voters worried by the dramatic rise of Islamists in the last year.
Moussa now appears to be one of a handful candidates with a decent chance of winning in the vote, due to held on May 23 and 24. Some analysts believe the vote could go to a June run-off between Moussa and one of the Islamists.
But Moussa, who describes himself as a liberal, still has to convince many voters who are skeptical of his reform credentials because of both his age and perceived links to Mubarak's era.
Seeking to show he can deliver change, Moussa pledged to eradicate illiteracy and to attract needed international aid at a rally held in a narrow dirt road in Ezbat al-Hagana, a slum on the outskirs of Cairo, surrounded by supporters tightly packed in between the red-brick buildings.
The 75-year-old offered a 100-day plan for his first days in office. He detailed a vision that would slash poverty and set in motion a plan to double Egypt's gross domestic product in 10 years. He says he will only serve for a single, four-year term.
"We are not talking about the realm of the impossible. We are not talking about the realm of imagination. We are talking about the realm of the achievable," he said in one impassionate remark as youth supporters wearing vests with "Students for Moussa" burst into chants of "Moussa! We want Moussa!"
Over a year of political uncertainty and economic crisis has exacerbated the woes of many of the poor in Egypt, a country where one fifth of the population lives on $2 a day.
Many voters say they are looking for a president with experience to restore stability and boost the economy.
"Poverty is Egypt's number one enemy," said Moussa from al-Hagana, one of dozens of slum areas in the capital. More than a third of Egypt's urban population lives in similarly poor areas, according to a 2008 United Nations Development report.
"Egypt is not a poor country. It has plenty of resources - resources that have yet to be used properly," he added, as a hen that escaped a vendor's cage pecked at the dirt nearby.
Ten of the 23 candidates who were seeking to run for the presidency have been disqualified for failing to meet all the conditions to qualify for the top job.
Moussa's main rivals now include Mohamed Mursi, the Muslim Brotherhood's candidate, and Abdel Moneim Abol Fotouh, who was expelled from the Islamist group last year.
The Brotherhood's first-choice candidate, Khairat al-Shater, was among those disqualified.
In an hour-long address translated into sign language, Moussa said Egyptians must work together to build a modern state with an economy that could create jobs for all and "cares for the marginalized and weak".
"There is no difference between Muslim or Christian, liberal, conservative or leftist. Egypt is in danger and its revolution is also in danger," he said, describing the country's tumultuous transition led by a council of military generals.
"The president must lead a coalition to save the nation."
In his first 100-days in office, he promised to immediately lift the state of emergency and take quick steps to help a tourism sector battered by the unrest. He has proposed offering tax waivers for tourism facilities as one example.
As many of his supporters broke into applause, others watched on with skepticism.
"We should listen, we shouldn't clap. We used to clap for Mubarak. He is talking reasonably and he is a first class politician, but we shouldn't forget he used to sit in Mubarak's government," Sobhy Sayed Ahmed, a 39-year old security guard, said. "Mubarak too used to say things that were reasonable."
"We have been manipulated, deceived and neglected for the last 30 years. They named the whole country after Mubarak, what about us? It's not easy to trust promises."