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The three major candidates running in Egypt’s first presidential election since the revolution have all been disqualified by the country’s election commission on Tuesday. The decision has made an already confusing situation impossible to predict as none of the barred candidates have conceded their ouster and the possibility of violence by their followers threatens the stability of the country and the integrity of the vote.
The ousted candidates include former Mubarak vice president and head of intelligence Omar Suleiman; Muslim Brotherhood party official Khairat al-Shater; and the radical Salfis TV preacher Hazem Salah Aboul Ismail. The Muslim Brotherhood, in anticipation that al-Shater might be barred from running, is fielding a second candidate, Mohammed Morsi. He is not as well known as al-Shater and this has dimmed prospects for an Islamist victory.
The disqualifications add to the confusion and uncertainty surrounding the election as the military hinted it might delay the presidential contest until a constitution is written. The Supreme Court suspended the panel that was chosen by parliament to write the document, citing its lack of diversity (70% of the members were Islamists). A delay would almost certainly cause the Egyptian street to explode in anger at the military rulers, of whom many Egyptians are already suspicious.
The likely beneficiary of the disqualifications is former Arab League chief and a Mubarak-era foreign minister Amr Moussa. He leads in the most recent poll taken at the beginning of this month. Another candidate who will gain from the disqualifications is a former Muslim Brotherhood member Abdel-Moneim Abolfotoh who left the organization after clashing with the leadership. That same poll also showed that 40% of Egyptians were undecided on who to support, reflecting a national mood of uncertainty.
All told, 10 of the 23 presidential candidates were disqualified by the commission — a body filled with judges who are holdovers from the Mubarak regime. Their decision is supposed to be final but the three major candidates have all indicated that they will seek an appeal of the commission’s ruling.
Suleiman was barred for not having the requisite number of endorsements from each governorate. Al-Shater was disqualified because of a conviction during the Mubarak regime. And Abu Ismail was barred from running because his mother held an American passport. Suleiman had no chance for a reprieve given the technical nature of the violation that is keeping him off the ballot. The same could be said for Ismail, although his supporters, who threw rocks and scuffled with police in front of the election commission headquarters following the announcement, violently disagreed.
The case of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party candidate al-Shater was believed by some analysts to be different. His conviction of a crime occurred at a time when the Mubarak regime was rounding up Muslim Brotherhood members and creating non-existent charges to put them in jail. But the election commission ruled a conviction is a conviction and al-Shater was barred.
“We do not accept it. We will challenge it,” said Gehad El-Haddad, a member of the steering committee for the Renaissance Project, the hub of the FJP presidential effort.
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