Middle East

Egypt election: Omar Suleiman bid draws Brotherhood warning

Egypt's former vice president Omar Suleiman (C), is mobbed at the Elections Commission (HPEC) headquarters in Cairo, 8 April 2012
Image caption Mubarak ally Omar Suleiman was mobbed by supporters as he submitted his nomination papers

Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood has warned of renewed turmoil if ousted leader Hosni Mubarak's former spy chief succeeds in a bid to become president.

Omar Suleiman, who also served as vice-president during last year's uprising, submitted his application on Sunday.

The Muslim Brotherhood's candidate, Khairat al-Shater, described the move as an "insult" to the Egyptian people.

But Mr Suleiman hit back saying the Brotherhood, tipped to do well in the elections, has lost popularity.

The presidential election, due to start on 23 May, will be the first since Mr Mubarak's overthrow in February 2011.

Twenty-three people have submitted applications to enter the race.

A provisional list of candidates will be published on Monday, but observers say the race looks set to be dominated by Islamists and officials who previously served in government.

'Big mistake'

The participation of Omar Suleiman, 75, promises to be particularly inflammatory, the BBC's Yolande Knell reports from Cairo.

Mobbed by supporters, he formally submitted his papers to the election commission less than half an hour before Sunday's deadline for nominations - having indicated on Friday his intention to run.

"I consider his entry an insult to the revolution and the Egyptian people," Khairat al-Shater, a millionaire businessman who was imprisoned during the rule of Mr Mubarak, told the Reuters news agency.

"Omar Suleiman has made a big mistake. He will only win through forgery and, if this happens, the revolution will kick off again."

However, he played down fears of a clash between the Islamists and the military.

"Even if there are issues with the military council's handling of the transitional period, such issues must be resolved in a way that does not lead to a real clash with the armed forces," he said.

But Omar Suleiman said the support shown towards the Muslim Brotherhood in parliamentary elections a few months ago was waning, and he was the candidate to restore law and order in the country.

"There has been a change on the Egyptian street," he told the Egyptian newspaper al-Akhbar. "The practices of the Brotherhood and their monopolistic ways and unacceptable pronouncements have contributed to a change of opinion."

He alleged he had been threatened by Islamists over his candidacy but vowed it would not put him off standing - and he also distanced himself from the long-time rule of Hosni Mubarak.

"If I was intelligence chief and then vice-president for a few days, that doesn't mean I was part of a regime against which the people mounted a revolt," he said.

Gen Suleiman is not the only other Mubarak-era figure running for president. Former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq and former Foreign Minister Amr Moussa are also standing.

Validity doubts

Meanwhile, the Muslim Brotherhood has registered a second candidate, Mohamed Mursi, who heads the movement's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), after it emerged that Mr Shater might be unable to stand as he was only recently pardoned for a conviction.

The FJP dominated parliamentary elections earlier this year and now has almost half the seats in the lower house of parliament, the National Assembly.

Mr Shater is one of several hopefuls who have had their eligibility for the presidency questioned, including the liberal candidate, Ayman Nour, and the ultraconservative Salafist lawyer, Hazem Abu Ismail.

Mr Abu Ismail is likely to be disqualified after reports that his mother held a US passport, contravening election laws.

Also on Sunday, Mr Shater announced that the Brotherhood would not support a $3.2bn emergency IMF loan requested by the government, unless the terms of the deal were changed.

The IMF has said it wants consensus among Egypt's main political groups before pressing forward with the loan.