Egypt's presidential race is boiling down to a contest between Hosni Mubarak's former foreign minister and two Islamists with strong bases of support after the election commission released the final list of 13 candidates today.
In the past few weeks, the commission disqualified 10 of the 23 hopefuls who had initially registered for the May 23-24 elections.
Those 10 included Mubarak's former spy chief Omar Suleiman, the powerful Muslim Brotherhood's first-choice candidate Khairat el-Shater and ultra-conservative Islamist Hazem Abu Ismail.
After a turbulent, 14-month transition led by the ruling military council that took over for Mubarak, none of the front-runners represents the largely liberal and secular youth who drove the uprising that ousted the former regime in February 2011.
And with a Mubarak-era figure and two Islamists dominating, the hopes for a truly representative and democratic government are dimming fast.
The three front-runners are Mubarak's long-time foreign minister and former Arab League chief Amr Moussa; Mohammed Morsi, the second-choice candidate of the nation's most powerful political group, the Muslim Brotherhood; and moderate Islamist candidate Abdel-Moneim Abolfotoh, who defected from the Muslim Brotherhood.
The list of qualifying candidates also included Ahmed Shafiq, the last prime minister to serve under Mubarak. He was disqualified, then reinstated over a 24-hour period this week.
Unlike Shafiq whose association with his long-time friend Mubarak has left him stained in the eyes of many Egyptians, Moussa has distanced himself from the old regime and gained acceptance from some liberal and secular factions.
Moussa quit the foreign ministry in 2001, before corruption and police brutality became hallmarks of the regime during its last decade in power. During his 10 years as Arab League chief, he occasionally raised the need for reform in the Arab world and was among those raising their voices against authoritarian rule in the region as the wave of revolutions began in Tunisia.
However, Moussa's public comments on Egypt's ruling generals have been cautious. He has argued, for example, that they should not be prosecuted for the alleged crimes they committed while in power.
The generals who took power in Egypt when Mubarak stepped down have promised to hand over power to a civilian administration by July 1, ending a transition period marred by the use by troops and police of deadly force against pro-democracy protesters, a sharp rise in violent crime and a worsening economic crisis.
If none of the 13 candidates wins more than 50% of the vote, a runoff will be held June 16-17 between the two candidates who receive the most votes in the first round. A winner will be declared on June 21.