Ex-Mubarak spy chief shakes up Egypt election (JERUSALEM POST) By OREN KESSLER 04/08/12)
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Cairo’s former intelligence chief and point man with Israel, Omar
Suleiman, said Friday he would run for Egypt’s presidency, reversing
an announcement he had made just the day before.
Suleiman said overwhelming popular demand prompted his decision to
become a candidate in Egypt’s first free presidential vote just
before nominations close on Sunday. He had briefly pulled out of the
race Thursday after saying he had failed to overcome administrative
regulations required to run.
The 74-year-old said he would participate in the
nomination “regardless of my previous statement about the
difficulties and challenges,” adding: “I promise you, my brothers and
sisters, to complete the goals of the revolution and provide security
and stability to the Egyptian people.”
The decision by former president Hosni Mubarak’s spy chief has shaken
up the Egyptian presidential race, in which the powerful Muslim
Brotherhood had also pledged not to run a candidate before reversing
its position last week.
Islamists and relative liberals are now trying to decipher the
motives of a man long viewed as the power behind his ousted boss.
Born into poverty in Upper Egypt, Suleiman served as an officer in
the 1967 Six Day War and 1973 Yom Kippur War before joining Egypt’s
intelligence apparatus in the 1980s. In 1993, he was appointed
intelligence chief, a post he held for nearly two decades before
Mubarak’s ouster in a popular uprising over a year ago.
Suleiman was Mubarak’s most trusted envoy to Israel and is well-
connected in Jerusalem. US diplomatic cables released last year by
WikiLeaks showed that in 2005 he had promised Israel it would prevent
Hamas from taking control of Gaza in elections scheduled for the
following year (the Islamist group won a decisive victory and
subsequently seized control of the Strip).
After Gilad Schalit’s capture by Gaza-based terrorists the following
year, Suleiman served as mediator between Israel and Hamas in
negotiations for the IDF soldier’s release.
The WikiLeaks cables quoted a US intelligence analyst as saying there
is “no question that Israel is most comfortable” with Suleiman as a
potential successor to Mubarak.
Like the former president, Suleiman has kept far from the public gaze
during the past year of turbulent military rule.
Mubarak appointed Suleiman as his vice president in the dying days of
his administration, one of several failed concessions to stem the
revolt against poverty, corruption and draconian security control.
To many of those who led the uprising, Suleiman’s reappearance is
proof that a powerful security establishment is determined to reverse
a transition to democratic rule before the army hands power to a
civilian president at the end of June.
Suleiman’s shadowy persona and his call during the revolt for
protesters to go home make him anathema to young revolutionaries
pressing for a new era of accountability and transparency.
“The youth will not let Omar Suleiman become president. The
revolution is still alive and we will march to Tahrir Square again if
necessary,” said Mohamed Fahmy, a revolutionary socialist who played
a role in galvanizing last year’s protests.
“The very idea that he is running is presumptuous. He should be in
prison,” said democracy activist and commentator Nawara Negm.
A Twitter hashtag message chain about Suleiman was called “Silly
Man.” Another activist said Egypt’s revolutionary chant of “Bread,
Freedom and Social Justice” would switch to “Bread, Blanket and
Prison Food” under Suleiman.
In a statement circulated by his campaign aides, Suleiman said public
demand had persuaded him to run if he could obtain the necessary
registration of 30,000 supporters by Saturday.
The statement to “citizens of Egypt” said: “I have been shaken by
your strong position. The call you have directed is an order and I am
a soldier who has never disobeyed an order.”
Suleiman’s supporters thronged the election committee’s offices in
Cairo on Saturday amid tight security as he arrived to begin the
paperwork, the state news agency, MENA, reported.
A senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party
(FJP) said the army and Mubarak-era remnants had been bussing
thousands of company employees to Cairo to provide many of the 30,000
signatures Suleiman needed to be a registered candidate.
“He is the old regime and would only run the country from a security
perspective,” said the FJP official, Medhat Hadad. “What kind of a
revolutionary vision do you expect someone like him to have?” Hadad
said he believed the army was openly supporting Suleiman’s candidacy
to cast its real preferred candidate, the nationalist and former Arab
League chief Amr Moussa, in a better light.
The return of the man seen by many Egyptians as the mastermind of
Mubarak’s autocratic rule comes as discontent grows over the
insecurity that has endured since his removal.
The economy is still reeling from the turmoil of the uprising, and
Coptic Christians and secularists are alarmed at the growing
political dominance of Islamists, who were repressed by Mubarak.
Hundreds of Suleiman supporters staged a rally in Cairo on Friday
carrying banners reading “Suleiman, save Egypt!” and “We don’t want
The Muslim Brotherhood, which swept Egypt’s first free parliamentary
election in decades, announced a week ago that it was fielding a
candidate for the presidency, reversing an earlier pledge not to.
Its candidate, deputy Brotherhood leader Khairat al-Shater, declared
last week that introducing Shari’a [Islamic] law would be his “first
and final” goal if he wins the vote in May and June.
On Friday, thousands of supporters of Hazem Salah Abu Ismail – who
has emerged as one of the frontrunners for the race – demonstrated
against what they called an official plot to stop the hardline
Islamist from contesting the election.
Egypt’s electoral commission said Saturday it had received
verification that Abu Ismail’s mother had US citizenship, a status
that will likely disqualify him from the race.
An official said the commission would give a verdict on Abu Ismail’s
eligibility after the Sunday deadline for all presidential candidates
to submit their applications to run.
In a poll in March – before Suleiman and the Brotherhood’s candidate
emerged as contenders – Amr Moussa was frontrunner with Abu Ismail in
The three-week campaign season begins April 30, with elections
kicking off May 23.
Reuters contributed to this report. (© 1995-2011, The Jerusalem Post
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