Egypt’s election commission disqualified 10 presidential hopefuls, including Hosni Mubarak’s vice president and the Muslim Brotherhood’s main nominee, creating new uncertainty about the May 23 contest.
The panel barred the Brotherhood’s Khairat el-Shater, Salafi nominee Hazem Abu Ismail and Omar Suleiman, Mubarak’s longtime intelligence chief who was named vice president in the ousted regime’s final days, the state-run Middle East News Agency reported yesterday. Their removal from the race leaves a field made up mostly of secularists and moderate Islamists. All three have said they will appeal the decision.
Political tensions are mounting as Egypt’s economy struggles after last year’s uprising against Mubarak. Net international reserves have decreased more than 50 percent in 15 months. Analysts such as Said Hirsh of Capital Economics Ltd. say devaluation of the Egyptian pound is likely, either in an orderly or disorderly fashion, unless Egypt finds a quick financial lifeline.
Mahmoud Ghozlan, a spokesman for the Brotherhood, called the commission’s decision a “dangerous” escalation in the country’s already fitful political transition. Taking el-Shater off the ballot was a clear attempt by Egypt’s ruling military council to skew the election in its favor, particular if only Suleiman is reinstated, he said.
“If 3 million or 4 million turned out” to remove Mubarak from power last year, “30 million or 40 million will be ready to prevent the former regime from taking power again,” Ghozlan said by telephone today.
The commission said on its website that 10 candidates were excluded from the May 23 election for failing to meet one or more election regulations. It provided no names or details. The ruling came at the start of a race that many Egyptians see as a faceoff between the Islamists that dominate parliament and the country’s military rulers.
Polls showed that el-Shater, Suleiman and Abu Ismail were among the front-runners in a field that also includes Amre Moussa, a former foreign minister and Arab League chief.
The candidates have 48 hours to appeal the ruling. The commission will release a final list of candidates on April 26.
A spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice party, Ahmed el-Sbea, told Al-Arabiya television that if el-Shater isn’t reinstated, the party, which controls almost 50 percent of the parliament’s lower house, will support its backup candidate, Freedom and Justice chief Mohamed Mursi. He was among 13 candidates approved by the commission.
Thousands of Islamists rallied in Cairo on April 13 to protest Suleiman’s candidacy, which they said was an attempt to restore the Mubarak regime.
The military, which took power after Mubarak’s ouster in February last year, says it’s not backing a candidate.
Suleiman was excluded for failing to submit the required number of supporters’ signatures in one region. El-Shater and Ayman Nour, who ran against Mubarak in 2005 and was subsequently jailed, were disqualified because of questions about their right to run after convictions in Egyptian courts, Middle East News Agency said.
Abu Ismail was ruled out because the commission determined that his mother held U.S. citizenship, the news service said. The Salafi cleric disputes the claim.
Earlier in the campaign, parliament approved a bill that would bar officials who held top spots in the former regime up to 10 years before Mubarak’s ouster from become president, vice president or prime minister for a decade from the day the former leader was removed.
The bill, which awaits a decision by the military council before it can come into effect, was drafted in response to Suleiman’s decision to reenter the face after previously dropping out.
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