Egypt’s election commission turned down appeals by 10 presidential candidates, including Hosni Mubarak’s former intelligence chief, the Muslim Brotherhood’s leading hopeful and a Salafi cleric in a move that strips the May 23 race of some of its most controversial figures.
The decision, announced yesterday and reported by the state-run Middle East News Agency, reaffirms an earlier ruling by the commission that outraged Islamists whose only apparent consolation was that Omar Suleiman, who served as Mubarak’s vice president in the ousted regime’s final days, was also knocked out of the race.
The disqualifications leave the field mostly comprised of moderate Islamists and secularists.
Disqualifying the candidates creates “a group of Egyptians who are disenfranchised, and who feel that they don’t have a voice in the outcome,” Shadi Hamid, director of research at the Brookings Doha Center in Qatar, said in a recent telephone interview. “That’s not a good precedent to set going into the country’s first democratic elections.”
The commission’s ruling comes at a time when Egyptians are worried about the country’s transition to civilian rule –- concerns heightened over the weekend when Egypt’s military ruler said a new constitution needs to be completed by the June 30 transfer of power deadline. Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi’s comments were read by some Egyptians as indicating that the presidential election could be delayed if the charter is not drafted in time.
Among the most prominent names to be disqualified permanently from next month’s vote were also the Brotherhood’s former second-in-command Khairat el-Shater, a millionaire businessman who served as the group’s chief planner, and Hazem Abou Ismail, a Salafi lawyer-turned-cleric.
Following his disqualification, el-Shater endorsed Mohamed Mursi, head of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, according to a statement on the Brotherhood’s website.
Abou Ismail had been disqualified because the commission said it had evidence his mother held dual U.S.-Egyptian citizenship, a claim he repeatedly denied. Abou Ismail began an open protest by the commission’s headquarters, MENA reported.
Suleiman and Abou Ismail were among the three top contenders for the post, according to a poll conducted by Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies and published April 16. Suleiman led with 31.7 percent, followed by former Arab League Secretary General Amre Moussa with 22.3 percent, according to the survey. Abou Ismail was in third with 21.4 percent.
Suleiman’s elimination removes a figure that the Brotherhood and others had seen as an attempt to recreate the ousted regime and an effort by the ruling military to ensure that their interests remain untouched in any new government, particularly one where the Islamists dominate parliament.
The military has denied any such ambitions and insists it is not backing any candidates.
To contact the reporters on this story: Tarek El-Tablawy in Cairo at firstname.lastname@example.org; Ahmed A Namatalla in Cairo at email@example.com
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