Egypt disqualifies 3 leading presidential candidates
Egypt’s presidential election commission removes 10 candidates from next month’s ballot, including Mubarak-era spy chief Omar Suleiman and Islamists Khairat Shater and Hazem Salah abu Ismail.
CAIRO — Egypt’s volatile presidential race was jolted Saturday when the election commission disqualified three controversial front-runners — the nation’s former spy chief and two impassioned Islamists — just five weeks before voters go to the polls.
The commission removed Omar Suleiman, the intelligence director under deposed President Hosni Mubarak; Khairat Shater, a leading voice for the ascendant Muslim Brotherhood; and Hazem Salah abu Ismail, an ultraconservative Salafi Islamist with wide populist appeal. Seven other candidates were also expelled, and appeals were expected.
Ismail’s followers — students, workers, engineers — are easily roused, and officials worried late Saturday that protesters would take to the streets. On Friday, thousands of Islamists had marched into Cairo’s Tahrir Square to protest Suleiman’s candidacy.
The commission’s decision added fresh turmoil to an increasingly polarized political terrain. The move weakens, in the eyes of many Egyptians, two prominent threats to the country’s emerging democracy: a potent remnant of the Mubarak era and the deepening power of Islamists who control parliament and want to expand the influence of Islamic law, known as sharia.
The Supreme Presidential Election Commission’s verdicts are likely to bolster the candidacy of Amr Moussa, a former foreign minister and Arab League secretary-general who was topping the polls before the recent entries of Suleiman and Shater. Moussa served under Mubarak until 2001 and is not considered as closely connected to the toppled president as Suleiman.
Egypt has been on a discomfiting political ride since Mubarak’s overthrow last year. Ruled by a council of generals, the country has veered from violence to uncertainty even as it lurches through political campaigns and promises of stability. The expulsion of the candidates again reveals the deep scars left by three decades of Mubarak’s oppressive rule.
Pictured: From left, disqualified Egyptian presidential candidates Hazem Salah abu Ismail, Omar Suleiman and Khairat Shater. (Khaled Desouki, AFP/Getty Images / April 14, 2012)