This was an interesting story with respect to the candidates that got thrown out. The Egyptian Presidential Elections are scheduled for May 23 and 24, with a run-off on June 16th and 17th if needed. Earlier the parliament did make an attempt to pass a law specifically barring high-ranking NDP officials from the Mubarak era from participating in the presidential race, though this was doubtful to pass due to the laws still having to pass through the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) before it is put into law.
There was also ongoing controversy after the MB announced they would field a candidate, Khairat El-Shater, in presidential elections. This was a 180 from a previous decision by the MB stating that they would not field anyone in the presidential election due to qualm fears that they would have absolute control of the executive and legislative wings of Egyptian politics. It may be recalled that in the last elections, the MB-backed Freedom and Justice Party and their allies got over half the seats in the lower house of parliament, underscoring their popularity. The MB had been very careful with the image it presents, trying to break free of the 30 years of propaganda the Egyptian regime had spread about it, trying to instead present itself as a party friendly to market and investors, trying to mirror Christian Democratic groups as their counterpart an-Nahda in Tunisia has done. El-Shater is one of the MB's top members, focusing on political strategy, as well as a multimillionaire from his furniture and textile businesses targeted at upper-class luxury goods.
The most controversial was arguably the case of the Salafist-backed candidate, Hazem Abu Ismail. The Salafist party al-Nour captured about 25% of seats up for grabs in the lower house of Egypt's parliament during elections, and due to the group's more hardline socially conservative and religious nature, it caused coverage over the candidate to be quite sensational. Understandably so- unlike the MB's more moderate approach , Ismail listed hardline reforms aiming at breaking down women's role in life and restructuring of the social sphere, and a total break with the US and Israel. This candidate ended up facing trouble though after it was discovered his mother, who had left Egypt for the United States and ended up becoming a citizen, which would have effectively disqualified him under current Egyptian law.
It's been claimed that the aforementioned law may have been used to target Egyptian expats from returning and running for office. One such candidate that was used as an example was the western favorite and former IAEA chief Elbaradei, though he withdrew from the presidential elections himself voluntarily criticizing the lack of a new constitution with out military interference.
Omar Suleiman, a Mubarak crony and former intelligence chief as well as a brief Vice President, entered into the race late earning the ire of many Egyptians who view him both as a remnant of the regime as well as the executioner of the state police's injustices and excesses on the people.
So the SCAF instead seemingly makes their own judgement on the current pool of candidates, disqualifying ten of the candidates who had announced their intent to run from a total of 23 candidates.
Egypt bars key candidates from elections Election panel excludes 10 presidential hopefuls, including Muslim Brotherhood candidate and ex-spy chief Omar Suleiman. Last Modified: 15 Apr 2012 03:45
The head of Egypt's election commission has announced that 10 presidential hopefuls, including the country's ex-spy chief and other key candidates, have been disqualified from running.
Farouk Sultan, the head of the Supreme Presidential Election Commission, said on Saturday that those excluded include Hosni Mubarak's former spy chief Omar Suleiman, Muslim Brotherhood chief strategist Khairat el-Shater and hard-line lawyer-turned-preacher Hazem Abu Ismail.
He declined to give details on the reasons for their disqualification.
According to election rules, candidates who have been disqualified can appeal the decision within 48 hours.
A council of military generals has been governing Egypt since Mubarak was swept from power a year ago in a popular uprising against his rule.
Abu Ismail's candidacy has been in doubt since the election commission said it had received notification from US authorities that his late mother had an American passport, a status that would disqualify him from the race.
Abu Ismail followers have held several demonstrations to warn against any move to disqualify their candidate.
On Friday they besieged the headquarters of the election commission, forcing it to evacuate the premises.
Abu Ismail's lawyer attacked the decision to disqualify the ultra-conservative Salafi and others from the race on Saturday, saying he expected a "major crisis".
"The man heading this committee has never been independent. This elimination was dictated to him and he is working under the guidance of the military council," Nizar Ghorab told Reuters, referring to the head of Egypt's election commission.
"I expect a major crisis to happen in the next few hours," he said.
A spokesman for the Shater campaign said their candidate had already prepared his appeal. Shater's candidacy had been in doubt because of a former criminal conviction.
"We will not give up our right to enter the presidential race," said Murad Muhammed Ali.
"There is an attempt by the old Mubarak regime to hijack the last stage of this transitional period and reproduce the old system of governance."
Suleiman, appointed deputy president by Mubarak in his last days in power, entered the presidential race at last moment, triggering both concern and heavy criticism from reformists who see him as a symbol of Mubarak's rule and a danger to democracy.
Hussein Kamal, a top Suleiman aide, told Reuters his campaign would also challenge the commission's decision.
"Omar Suleiman will take legal route to challenge this decision to exclude him from the presidential race," he told Reuters.
Naturally the decision drew criticism from the candidates and their supporters. The most notable among those disqualified include Omar Suleiman, former Mubarak intelligence chief and one of Mubarak's hurried appointments to his cabinet in a vain attempt to appease protestors a year ago. Suleiman was a SCAF favorite too, though his removal may have been an attempt to try and look neutral with the other candidates that were disqualified. As the article states, these include names I have listed before, such as the MB's Khairat El-Shater and the Salafist Hazem Abu Ismail. Representatives for Shater and Suleiman indicate they will appeal the decision.
The MB candidate El-Shater was disqualified under the reasoning that due to prior criminal convictions, referring to his stint in jail as a political prisoner of the Mubarak regime from 2007 to March 2011 when SCAF released all such prisoners (for the most part). Omar Suleiman was disqualified due to seemingly being unable to prove he had acquired the proper amount of signatures to qualify as a candidate. The Salafist candidate Ismail was disqualified due to the status of his mother being a US citizen before her death.
Both the Mubarak remnants and the MB have back up candidates. The Suleiman supporters will go for a NDP functionary and former air chief, as well as briefly a Prime Minister (like Suleiman, one of the candidates included in Mubarak's "reshuffled" cabinet trying to appease the masses) who is also on good terms with the SCAF. The MB has the Freedom and Justice Party chief, Mohammed Mursi, as a back up though he is not as well known (and lacks the personal appeal of El-Shater) but has the support via the Freedom and Justice Party. The Salafists do not appear to have a back up candidate, and as such their supporters have been the most angry.
The SCAF gives until April 26th for the appeals to be processed and considered, which is when they will announce the final list of candidates. If none of the disqualified candidates can return, the elimination of these three candidates will probably narrow the race to three strong candidates: the aforementioned MB-backed Mohammed Mursi, former Arab League General-Secretary Amr Moussa (who like Elbaradei, is usually seen as more 'approachable' by the west), and former MB member and doctor Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh (considered to've been part of the 'liberal' and 'reformist' wing in the MB).
With the military's interference in the elections, protests broke out again calling for the SCAF to step down. These are probably the largest in awhile, swelling the usual Friday crowds of protests at Tahrir Square. The common message is both frustration with the military's continued rule as well as suspicions that even with their promises to step down after the president is formally sworn in this summer following elections that they will continue to extend control through a figurehead president.
Hundreds of thousands packed in Tahrir square on Friday. (photo Mai Shaheen)
Towards the second half of the day that saw hundreds of thousands of protesters flooding Tahrir Square for "Self-Determination Friday,” protesters stuck to their guns and stuck to their demands.
In contrast to last week’s million man-march called for by Islamist forces, this Friday’s protest witnessed a diversity of political forces, ranging from Islamists to liberals.
Various demands were made from the approximately nine stages set up in the square from every spectra, including the liberal April 6 movement, the National Association for Change, Salafist Hazem Salah Abu Ismail supporters and a joint Mostameroon movement.
Most banners on the different podiums addressed getting rid of former regime figures, primarily, presidential candidates military man, Ahmed Shafiq and ex-Arab League chief, Amr Moussa.
One of the demands was the retreat of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) from the political scene and the importance of drafting a representative constitution.
Abu Ismail posters and banners flooded the square as if he was yet a presidential contender, despite having been eliminated from the race by the Supreme Presidential Elections Commission (SPEC) a week ago.
Another popular banner that was for the first time seen in Tahrir read: “Rigging will take place; Mubarak’s council continues to rule,” next to pictures of different SPEC judges.
Liberal MP Amr Hamzawy addressed the protesters, demanding that the remnants of the former regime truly be purged from Egypt’s politics within the upcoming period.
He further lambasted the Muslim Brotherhood for its “un-revolutionary” stances in the recent period and called on the group to withdraw its presidential candidate, Mohamed Morsi.
In response a number of Brotherhood supporters in the square expressed their disagreement by claiming that the majority of the protesters are actually from Islamist forces.
Leftist presidential candidate Khaled Ali also addressed the crowd, stressing the need to continue protesting in Tahrir in order to pressure the ruling powers to heed the demands of the people, most importantly, social justice.
Pro-reform Kefaya movement activist Karima Hefnawi stressed on the current constitutional crisis and the need for all forces within society to work towards ensuring that a truly representative constituent assembly is created, in order to allow for a truly legitimate constitution to be formed.
Despite several calls for an open-ended sit-in at the square, only Abu Ismail’s Salafist supporters seemed to be sticking through with their call towards the end of the day.
Muslim Brotherhood supporters, who had flooded the square on buses from around different governorates late Thursday and early Friday, started exiting the square after 4:00pm.
After a lack of consensus among the April 6 movement itself they backed out of their initial call for a march and sit-in at the state television building in Maspero, stated Masry, a 26-year-old April 6 member from the Ahmed Maher front.
Despite the calls for national unity, Masry believes that great divisions have occurred, mainly between the Brotherhood and the liberal forces. He blames the chasm on the alleged deals being made between the Brotherhood and the SCAF until very recently.
“We cannot trust the Brotherhood anymore and the only reason they joined our call for a protest today is because they realised they didn’t get what they wanted after cooperating with the SCAF, so they turned to the revolutionaries again,” Masry stated.
A 46-year-old Brotherhood supporter, Mostafa Abdel-Hamid, stated that he would have attended the protests regardless if the Brotherhood had officially joined.
“I am here for three main reasons: the illegitimacy of the Supreme Presidential Elections Commission, which is all made up of remnants of the old regime; for the removal of Article 28 from the constitution declaration, which grants the SPEC immunity from appeal, and lastly; for unity between the different political forces,” stated Abdel-Hamid.
Ahmed Ezz, a 30-year-old sheikh from Al-Azhar (the Sunni authority), clarified that a main demand that most of the forces have united for is the need to truly rid the current transitional period of all remnants of the former regime.
“As Azharites, we are mainly calling for the true independence of our leading Islamic institution and for the removal of all felool [ex-regime supporters], especially the head: the Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa,” asserted Ezz.
The Azhar sheikh asserted that it is very clear that the policies of the old regime were still in place, since despite large-scale public opinion against the normalisation of relations with Israel, the Grand Mufti decided to visit the occupied Palestinian territories on Tuesday.
Iman, a 17-year-old student questioned: “How are we to call this a ‘revolution’ when the same people that were supposedly removed through a revolution can very possibly return and rule us again,” referring to ex prime minister Ahmed Shafiq and ex-intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman.
“We want to send a message to the SCAF that we cannot - and will not - be deceived by the parliament that is in place and in believing that this is a democracy. We are far from that,” Iman stated.
A staunch supporter of Abu Ismail, Mohamed Suleiman, 30, expressed his outrage towards the SPEC and what he considers clear fraud taking place regarding the ongoing process of the presidential elections.
Suleiman added, “I, however, believe that we have very clearly been able to show what we can achieve.” He says they have proven that when they really want to political forces can unite.
Mostafa, a couscous seller standing by his cart as singer Rami Essam entertained the protesters looked in dismay at the crowds.
“I am not very happy about today because fragmentation is strong amongst the different forces in the square; while many have come claiming to be joining forces, the truth is that everyone is here for their own agenda.”