The presidential election, the final stage in Egypt’s turbulent transition, will begin May 23. With elections just around the corner, Egypt’s Higher Presidential Election Commission (HPEC) shocked many on Saturday by announcing that it had disqualified 10 of the 23 candidates running for Office.
On Tuesday, the committee overseeing the Egyptian presidential election upheld the HPEC’s decision, finding that the hopeful candidates offered no new evidence to overturn the decision. As Al Jazeera’s Mike Hanna reported from Cairo, “On examining the appeals of each of these candidates, the commission has announced that there is no reason to alter the initial decision.” Hanna also went on to explain that the “presidential election commission is the final arbiter in this particular case.” In short, the candidates cannot go to court over this decision, and the campaigns for these ten candidates are over.
The candidates were disqualified for a variety of proffered reasons, as is evident in evaluating the disqualifications applied to the three candidates who many considered to be among the top contenders: ex-spy chief Omar Suleiman, Muslim Brotherhood leader Khairat al-Shater, and ultraconservative Salafist, Hazem Abu Ismail. Mr. Suleiman was disqualified because he fell short of the required number of public endorsements. In contrast, Mr. al-Shater was disqualified for a previous conviction. Mr. Abu Ismail was meanwhile disqualified because his late mother held US citizenship, a fact he vigorously denied. Under a new Egyptian law passed after the uprising, candidates, their parents and spouses, must hold only Egyptian citizenship.
The disqualifications of these candidates will likely fuel speculation over the independence of the HPEC. Farouk Sultan, the head of the commission, is a former army officer and judge in the military court system. Some speculate that he and his fellow judges on the HPEC “are sympathizers with the old regime” and thus impartial decision makers. The Muslim Brotherhood also reported that other judges on the HPEC are holdovers from the Mubarak era and were appointed to the panel by the country’s military rulers.
With the candidate pool vastly reduced, the new top contenders are likely former foreign minister Amr Moussa, moderate Islamist Abdel-Moneim Abolfotoh and the Brotherhood’s backup candidate, Mohammed Mursi. However, Jon Leyne, an analyst for the BBC News, stated that this decision completely reshapes the prospects for the presidential election. Moreover, Leyne also explained that the Muslim Brotherhood must decide whether to endorse their back-up candidate, Mr. Mursi. A final list of candidates will be published on April 26, when the election campaign officially kicks off.