Over US mother, Islamist likely out of Egypt race (AP) Associated Press) By MAGGIE MICHAEL CAIRO, EGYPT 04/05/12 4:10 pm ET)
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CAIRO – Egypt´s election commission confirmed Thursday that the
mother of a popular Islamist presidential hopeful was an American
citizen, effectively disqualifying him from the race and likely
boosting the chances of the Muslim Brotherhood´s candidate.
The ruling is likely to draw an uproar from supporters of Hazem Abu
Ismail, a 50-year-old lawyer-turned-preacher who in recent months
vaulted to become one of the strongest contenders for president, with
widespread backing from ultra-conservative Muslims known as Salafis.
The announcement is particularly embarrassing for Abu Ismail, who
used anti-U.S. rhetoric in his campaign speeches and
rejected "dependency" on America. In recent weeks, he repeatedly
denied reports that began circulating that his late mother held U.S.
A law put in place after last year´s fall of President Hosni Mubarak
stipulates that a candidate may not have any other citizenship than
Egyptian — and that the candidate´s spouse and parents cannot have
other citizenships as well.
The commission, however, did not outright disqualify Abu Ismail
because it has not yet begun the process of vetting would-be
Abu Ismail is likely to fight for a way to stay in the race. Late
Thursday, he urged his supporters to be patient because he was still
fighting to prove that his mother´s documents didn´t amount to a full
citizenship. He said the controversy was a mere plot to "slander" him.
"It has become clear to us that there is a big and elaborate plot,
tightly prepared for a long time from many directions, internally and
externally," he said, without naming anyone.
Before the commission´s announcement, Abu Ismail´s campaign was
vowing to hold a huge rally in Cairo´s Tahrir Square on Friday
against what they see as a conspiracy to keep him out of the race.
"The massive army of his supporters will rally because we will not be
silent over forgery and games," said his campaign chief Gamal Saber.
As Sunday is the cut-off date for hopefuls to apply to run, the field
for the May 23-24 election is beginning to become clearer after weeks
of uncertainty. Barring last minute surprises, it appears to be
headed to a contest focused between the Brotherhood candidate Khairat
el-Shater and largely former regime figures, the popular ex-foreign
minister and Arab League chief Amr Moussa and a former prime
minister, Ahmed Shafiq.
Abu Ismail´s disqualification would remove el-Shater´s main
competitor for the powerful Islamist vote. The Brotherhood, which is
the country´s strongest political movement, announced last weekend
that el-Shater — its deputy leader — would run. Since then, el-Shater
has been heavily courting Salafis, a movement that is more hard-line
than the fundamentalist Brotherhood.
Another significant Islamist candidate remains, Abdel-Moneim
Abolfotoh, a reformer who was thrown out of the Brotherhood last year
and is trying to appeal both to religious and more secular-minded
Moussa´s chances were boosted Wednesday when former Mubarak-era
strongman and intelligence chief Omar Suleiman announced he would not
run. Though widely distrusted as a symbol of the old regime, he might
have found support among the liberals and moderates that Moussa is
courting and who fear the Islamists´ rising power.
On Thursday, the 61-year-old el-Shater waved at some 3,000 supporters
chanting, "Islam is back," as he entered the election commission
headquarters to formally submit his papers to run. He handed in more
than 250 endorsements from lawmakers from the Brotherhood party and
the Salafi Al-Nour Party, needed to qualify to join the race.
To run for president, a candidate needs endorsements from lawmakers
or a party. Otherwise, the candidate must gather some 30,000
endorsements from the public across different parts of Egypt.
Just a week ago, Abu Ismail flexed his muscles by submitting his
documents amid a giant rally by his supporters, who stretched from
his home to the commission headquarters. He handed in some 150,000
public endorsements, five times the required number.
His face — smiling, with a long, conservative beard — had become
ubiquitous in Cairo and other cities because of a startlingly
aggressive postering campaign that plastered walls and lampposts with
his picture and the slogan, "We will live in dignity."
Abu Ismail rose to fame through his religious sermons and TV programs
promising to guide Muslims to the "right path to Islam." He joined
early on in the protests against Mubarak last year and after his fall
struck a defiant tone against the military generals who took power.
When reports concerning his mother began circulating, Abu Ismail
insisted she only had a Green Card to visit her daughter, who is
married to an American, lives in the United States and has
But in a statement Thursday on the state news agency MENA, the
election commission said it received documents from the Interior
Ministry proving that Abu Ismail´s mother had a U.S. passport she
used to travel a number of time to the U.S.. The mother also traveled
to Germany and Egypt using the U.S. passport in 2008 and 2009, it
The commission starts reviewing would-be candidates´ papers after
Sunday´s deadline. (© 2012 The Associated Press 04/05/12)
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