Egypt presidential poll bans on candidates upheld

Composite image showing Khairat al-Shater, Omar Suleiman and Hazem Abu Ismail Khairat al-Shater, left, Omar Suleiman, centre, and Hazem Abu Ismail all lost their appeals

Ten candidates who had applied to run in the Egyptian presidential election have lost their appeals against disqualification, officials say.

A judicial panel found no new evidence was offered by the hopefuls, including ex-spy chief Omar Suleiman and Muslim Brotherhood leader Khairat al-Shater.

The ultraconservative Salafist, Hazem Abu Ismail, also lost his appeal. The three were considered front-runners.

The BBC's correspondent in Cairo says the decision reshapes the election.

A final list of candidates will be published on 26 April, when the election campaign officially begins.

Hundreds of supporters of Mr Abu Ismail are staging a sit-in outside the commission's headquarters in Cairo which is surrounded by military police and armoured cars.

When their candidate's rejection was announced, some of them threw stones and briefly scuffled with police.

Mr Abu Ismail also arrived at the building, telling supporters: "We are exposed to a conspiracy by parties that you cannot imagine. What is happening inside the committee is treachery to create divisions."

Analysis

This decision completely reshapes the prospects for the presidential election. Three of those disqualified - the former spy chief Omar Suleiman, the Muslim Brotherhood candidate Khairat al-Shater and the hardline Salafist Hazem Abu Ismail - were considered the front-runners.

The Muslim Brotherhood must decide now whether to support their back-up candidate, Mohammed Mursi. But others are likely to move to the front of the race, including the former Arab League chief Amr Moussa, and an independent Islamist who broke away from the Muslim Brotherhood, Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh.

Already some demonstrators have gathered outside the electoral commission to protest against the decision, which could increase tension between Islamists and the ruling military council.

The first round of voting is scheduled on 23 and 24 May, after which there is expected to be a run-off between the top two candidates in June.

The ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which assumed presidential powers after Hosni Mubarak was forced to step down by an uprising last year, is due to hand over to the new president on 1 July.

'Mubarak sympathisers'

On Saturday, the Higher Presidential Election Commission (HPEC) shocked many by announcing that it had disqualified 10 of the 23 candidates, including the top two Islamist contenders and Mr Suleiman.

The former vice-president, who was head of the General Intelligence Department under Mr Mubarak, was struck off the list because he failed to get enough signatures to endorse his candidacy.

Mr Shater, a millionaire businessman and deputy leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, was ruled out because of a disputed past conviction.

Ayman Nour, a former liberal MP who challenged Mr Mubarak for the presidency in 2005, was also banned under the rule.

Mr Abu Ismail was meanwhile disqualified because his late mother held US nationality, something which the Salafist strenuously denied.

There is deep unease about the impartiality of the HPEC, reports the BBC's Jon Leyne in Cairo.

The head of the commission, Farouk Sultan, is a former army officer and judge in the military court system, and the Muslim Brotherhood have said all his fellow judges on the HPEC are sympathisers with the old regime.

The law bans any appeal against the HPEC's final decision.

Those candidates said to remain include former Arab League chief Amr Moussa, moderate Islamist Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, who broke away from the Muslim Brotherhood, and former prime minister Ahmed Shafiq.

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