Egypt bars key candidates from elections

Election panel excludes 10 presidential hopefuls, including Muslim Brotherhood candidate and ex-spy chief Omar Suleiman.


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.

'Major crisis'

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.

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