Egypt’s first post-Arab Spring presidential election is now wide open after the electoral commission confirmed that 10 candidates have been barred, rejecting challenges by two Islamists and the old regime’s spy chief.
The commission had held a day-long meeting on Tuesday to hear appeals from disqualified candidates, including former intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Khairat El-Shater and popular Salafist politician Hazem Abu Ismail.
Among the candidates still able to run are former Arab League chief Amr Mussa and Abdelmoneim Abul Fotouh, a one-time member of the powerful Brotherhood.
“It’s a very important decision because it eliminates the most controversial candidates,” said Mustafa Kamel al-Sayyed, professor of political science at Cairo University.
It is expected that those who would have voted for Suleiman would support Mussa, and Islamists may back Abul Fotouh.
However, with the only Salafist candidate out of the race, “there is fear of reactions from the Abu Ismail supporters, who are not very disciplined,” Sayyed said.
Abu Ismail supporters spent the night in protest outside the electoral commission.
The commission said on Saturday it had rejected the candidacy of the 10 due to irregularities in their applications.
Although expected in some quarters, the news of the decision threw the presidential campaign into turmoil as the fate of a new constitution remains hanging in limbo.
The Muslim Brotherhood had anticipated the decision by putting up Mohammed Morsi, chairman of the movement’s Freedom and Justice Party, as an “alternative” candidate and whose application has been approved.
Shater, who was in jail last year on charges of terrorism and money laundering, was barred because of a law stating candidates can only run in elections six years after being released or pardoned.
The Brotherhood’s Twitter feed quoted Shater as saying “my exclusion from the presidential race despite sound legal case is a proof [former Egyptian president Hosni] Mubarak is still in power. We shall continue in our peaceful struggle to complete our unfinished revolution.”
Later addressing hundreds of partisans in Cairo, Shater — a wealthy businessman — called on Egyptians to “protect the revolution,” warning that plans for electoral fraud and vote-buying were under way.
He promised “to topple the remains of the Mubarak regime.”
Suleiman was disqualified because he failed to garner enough endorsements from all 15 provinces as required under the law.
Abu Ismail is out of the race because his mother holds foreign nationality, violating election rules, which state that all candidates, their parents and their wives must have only Egyptian citizenship.
The election is scheduled for May 23 and 24, raising fears among many of having to elect a president whose powers have not been defined.