Thirteen to stand in Egypt presidential election

Ahmed Shafiq speaks in January 2011 (file picture) Ahmed Shafiq, briefly PM during last year's protests, is among those allowed to stand

Egyptian officials have published the final list of those allowed to stand in the first presidential election to be held after the ousting of President Hosni Mubarak last year.

The list contains the names of 13 candidates, out of 23 who had initially applied to stand.

It includes former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq. He was excluded from the vote on Tuesday, but later readmitted.

The first round of the election is to be held on 23-24 May.

Other prominent hopefuls on the list are the the chairman of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), Mohammed Mursi; the secularist former Arab League chief Amr Moussa; and an independent Islamist who broke away from the Muslim Brotherhood, Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh.

Announcing the list, Farouk Sultan, head of the Higher Presidential Election Commission, said the body had decided to accept Mr Shafiq's appeal against his exclusion.

Mr Shafiq's candidacy had been judged to infringe a law passed by the Islamist-dominated parliament that banned former Mubarak-era officials from standing.

Analysis

Not surprisingly, Egyptians are confused. Several of the leading candidates for the presidential election have been disqualified, one re-instated. And it is not entirely clear exactly what the existing candidates stand for.

Of the 13 remaining candidates it seems four are the front runners. There are two leading Islamists: Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood, and Abdul Moneim Aboul Fotouh, a former member of the Brotherhood who is seen as more moderate or pragmatic. The two leading secular candidates appear to be the former Arab League chief and foreign minister, Amr Moussa, and former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq.

The opinion polls are contradictory, so predictions are very difficult. It is not necessarily going to be a straight battle between Islamists and those who want a more secular Egypt. Some voters who chose an Islamist in the parliamentary elections may feel Egypt needs a secular president. But one of the key questions is whom the Salafists, highly conservative Islamists, will vote for after their candidate was ruled out of the running.

His appeal said the law, which was ratified by the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (Scaf) on Tuesday, was unconstitutional. It has now been referred to Egypt's Constitutional Court.

Ahmed Shafiq briefly served as prime minister during the mass protests that led to the resignation of President Mubarak.

'Confusion'

A spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood, Mahmoud Ghozlan, criticised the committee.

"Its behaviour is clearly characterised by confusion: today no, tomorrow, yes, and the truth is this shakes its status and its position as a neutral committee," he told Reuters.

"It has a law and it is obliged to apply it and it is not its business to examine whether or not it is constitutional," he added.

But Farouk Sultan offered reassurances that "the committee confirms it is not against, or in confrontation with, anyone who has been excluded".

Earlier, the electoral commission disqualified President Mubarak's former vice-president and spy chief, Omar Suleiman; the Muslim Brotherhood's initial prime candidate, Khairat al-Shater, and the hardline Salafi Islamist candidate Hazem Abu Ismail.

All three had been considered front-runners.

Election candidates

Seen as front-runners:

  • Ahmed Shafiq: former commander of the air force and briefly PM during February 2011 protests.
  • Amr Moussa: Former foreign minister and ex-head of Arab League.
  • Mohammed Mursi: heads Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party.
  • Abdul Moneim Aboul Fotouh: Leading Brotherhood figure forced to leave after announcing candidacy last year.

Other candidates include Islamic thinker Muhammad al-Awwa; leading judge Hisham al-Bastawisi; socialist MP Abu-al-Izz al-Hariri; left-wing rights activist Khalid Ali; co-founder of Nasserist Karama party Hamdin Sabbahi

Election hopes

Officials said Mr Shater was barred because of a criminal conviction, and Mr Abu Ismail because his late mother held US nationality, which the Salafist denies.

Gen Suleiman was excluded because he was just 31 endorsements short of the 30,000 needed to get on the ballot.

His announcement earlier this month that he was standing was met with angry protests, largely by Islamists, who accused him of being part of a move by former leading officials to resurrect the old regime.

It is hoped that the May election, which comes more than a year after the uprising against Mr Mubarak's regime, will clear the way for the ruling military council to hand power over to the civilian authorities on 1 July.

If no candidate wins more than half the votes in the first round, a run-off between the top two will be held in June.

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