Egypt panel bars three president hopefuls

2012-04-18 07:22

Egypt’s election commission has rejected the appeals of three main contenders for president, definitively removing the most polarising candidates from the race to become the nation’s first elected leader since the ousting of president Hosni Mubarak.

The disqualification of the three diminishes the chances that an Islamist candidate will win the presidency. But there are worries over the fallout from the decision, particularly from the supporters of one of the barred candidates, ultraconservative Islamist Hazem Abu Ismail.

About 2 000 Abu Ismail supporters had camped outside the commission’s headquarters since the previous day, demanding he be allowed to run.

When the rejection was announced yesterday evening, some of them threw stones at security and briefly scuffled with military police.

The commission’s decision removes the top contenders in the race – Mubarak-era strongman Omar Suleiman, Muslim Brotherhood chief strategist Khairat el-Shater and Abu Ismail, a lawyer-turned-hard-line preacher.

The panel had announced their disqualification over the weekend, shocking many in the nation. Each appealed the decision but yesterday the panel rejected the appeals.

Suleiman was disqualified because he fell short of the required number of public endorsements; el-Shater because of a previous conviction; and Abu Ismail because his mother held American citizenship briefly before her death in 2010.

According to a new law passed after the uprising, candidates won’t qualify if their spouses or parents hold a foreign nationality.

With the three out, the top contenders in the race are seen to be former foreign minister Amr Moussa, moderate Islamist Abdel-Moneim Abolfotoh and the Brotherhood’s backup candidate, Mohammed Morsi.

Many have questioned the independence of the commission, hold-overs from the Mubarak era appointed to the panel by the nation’s military rulers.

The presidential elections are the final stage of a turbulent transition, managed by a council of generals who took over from Mubarak.

The generals promised to hand over power by end of June after a president is elected. Voting will be on May 23-24.

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