Editor's note: Isobel Coleman is the author of "Paradise Beneath Her Feet" and a senior fellow for U.S. foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.
By Isobel Coleman - Special to CNN
Egypt's presidential race has been a political roller coaster. After banning 10 candidates earlier this month, the country's election commission banned and unbanned this week yet another well-known candidate, former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq, although the constitutional court is still reviewing that decision. The remaining front-runners for president speak a similar language on the need for economic reform and political transition, but they hold very different positions on the role of Islam in a new Egypt.
In this sense, the presidential election will be an important indicator of how much weight Egyptians give to Islam as a factor in their political life. It will not be the only factor in their decision, which will no doubt turn on questions of personality and name recognition as much as anything. But a vote for a candidate with more conservative Islamist leanings - and there is evidence of strong support for such candidates - will likely influence the writing of the constitution, with potential for a long-lasting impact on the rights of minorities and women in particular.