Collective punishment: Mubarak loyalist, key Islamists banned from presidential race

Holding up a sign that reads in Arabic, "There is no difference between former president Hosni Mubarak and Omar Suleiman, Mubarak's former intelligence chief, thousands of Islamists demonstrate in the capital's landmark Tahrir Square (AFP Photo / Khaled Desouki)
A number of top contenders in Egypt’s presidential election have been disqualified. Among the banned candidates are both Islamists and a Mubarak-era top official.

­Egypt’s Electoral Commission has banned 10 of the 24 candidates running for the country's highest office. The decision comes after thousands of Egyptians took to the streets of Cairo to protest the candidacy of Omar Suleiman, the former intelligence chief under ex-President Hosni Mubarak. They called on the ruling military council to ratify a law that would not allow former Mubarak officials to run for office.

Suleiman has now been disqualified, though not for the reasons put forward by the protesters: the Electoral Commission stated that he did not have the necessary number of endorsements.
But key Islamist candidates, whom the protesters supported, were also barred from the race.  

Muslim Brotherhood candidate Khairat el-Shater was one of those disqualified. The reason cited for his elimination was his criminal record. Like many other Brotherhood activists, he was imprisoned under the Mubarak regime.  

Another Islamist candidate, Hazem Salah Abu-Ismail, was also eliminated because his late mother held dual American-Egyptian citizenship. New election laws stipulate that the candidate, the candidate’s spouse or the candidate’s parents cannot hold any non-Egyptian citizenship.

The banned candidates have a right to appeal, and their supporters are expected to protest the decision. The Electoral Commission is set to issue the final list of candidates by April 26.

‘Political decision, dangerous excess’ – Islamists

The decision of the electoral commission prompted anger and dismay from the Islamist community.

This is a political decision, not a legal one,” a campaign spokesman of the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate Khairat el-Shater said. “This commission is politicized and we will exert all political pressures to restore our rights.”

On his Twitter, account el-Shater responded to the decision by saying: “We will not give up freedom.”

As a lawyer, I say that what happened is a dangerous excess,” Abu-Ismail said, as quoted by Al-Ahram. “The commission cannot look into a case that a court of law has already ruled upon; its mission is only to verify the documents it has at its disposal, which is an administrative task and not a legal one.

The elimination of nearly half the contenders leaves fewer notable candidates in the running. Other Muslim Brotherhood nominee Mohammed Morsi isn’t considered to be as strong as el-Shater, making former Arab League Secretary General and Mubarak-era Foreign Minister Amr Moussa the leading contender for the spot.  

May’s election will be the country’s first presidential vote since the ouster of long-time ruler Hosni Mubarak last year.

Suspension 'not final'

Said Sadek, a political sociologist at the American University in Cairo, believes Suleiman could return to the race if his appeal is successful.

We are seeing a campaign, even by government media, supporting him,” Sadek told RT. “The suspension yesterday is not final." Sadek pointed to the fact that Suleiman was supposed to get signatures from 15 governates, but only got them from 14. "And so it’s a technical, bureaucratic hurdle. But I think it was used first to disqualify potential others that were also a threat. I expect by Tuesday the final decision on all those appeals. And you may get the surprise that Suleiman is still running in the race.

Sadek also believes Suleiman has a significant support base in Egypt.

You have a lot of people who are disenchanted with the Islamists. When they came to power they always concentrated on curtailing personal liberties, alarming women, alarming moderates, alarming religious minorities in Egypt. And so those people would prefer to get somebody strong who would stand against the Islamists and cut them in size.

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Political activist Ahmed Naguib views Suleiman as a very controversial candidate.

Omar Suleiman was Mubarak’s chief aide and support throughout the revolution – he has a very notorious, violent record as the chief of intelligence,” he noted to RT. “He scares most Egyptians. Unfortunately, he’s been allowed to run as a tactical game to scare the Muslim Brotherhood from running.”

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