Disqualifications Roil Egyptian Election (FrontPageMagazine.com) by Rick Moran 04/18/12)
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The three major candidates running in Egypt’s first presidential
election since the revolution have all been disqualified by the
country’s election commission on Tuesday. The decision has made an
already confusing situation impossible to predict as none of the
barred candidates have conceded their ouster and the possibility of
violence by their followers threatens the stability of the country
and the integrity of the vote.
The ousted candidates include former Mubarak vice president and head
of intelligence Omar Suleiman; Muslim Brotherhood party official
Khairat al-Shater; and the radical Salfis TV preacher Hazem Salah
Aboul Ismail. The Muslim Brotherhood, in anticipation that al-Shater
might be barred from running, is fielding a second candidate,
Mohammed Morsi. He is not as well known as al-Shater and this has
dimmed prospects for an Islamist victory.
The disqualifications add to the confusion and uncertainty
surrounding the election as the military hinted it might delay the
presidential contest until a constitution is written. The Supreme
Court suspended the panel that was chosen by parliament to write the
document, citing its lack of diversity (70% of the members were
Islamists). A delay would almost certainly cause the Egyptian street
to explode in anger at the military rulers, of whom many Egyptians
are already suspicious.
The likely beneficiary of the disqualifications is former Arab League
chief and a Mubarak-era foreign minister Amr Moussa. He leads in the
most recent poll taken at the beginning of this month. Another
candidate who will gain from the disqualifications is a former Muslim
Brotherhood member Abdel-Moneim Abolfotoh who left the organization
after clashing with the leadership. That same poll also showed that
40% of Egyptians were undecided on who to support, reflecting a
national mood of uncertainty.
All told, 10 of the 23 presidential candidates were disqualified by
the commission — a body filled with judges who are holdovers from the
Mubarak regime. Their decision is supposed to be final but the three
major candidates have all indicated that they will seek an appeal of
the commission’s ruling.
Suleiman was barred for not having the requisite number of
endorsements from each governorate. Al-Shater was disqualified
because of a conviction during the Mubarak regime. And Abu Ismail was
barred from running because his mother held an American passport.
Suleiman had no chance for a reprieve given the technical nature of
the violation that is keeping him off the ballot. The same could be
said for Ismail, although his supporters, who threw rocks and
scuffled with police in front of the election commission headquarters
following the announcement, violently disagreed.
The case of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party
candidate al-Shater was believed by some analysts to be different.
His conviction of a crime occurred at a time when the Mubarak regime
was rounding up Muslim Brotherhood members and creating non-existent
charges to put them in jail. But the election commission ruled a
conviction is a conviction and al-Shater was barred.
“We do not accept it. We will challenge it,” said Gehad El-Haddad, a
member of the steering committee for the Renaissance Project, the hub
of the FJP presidential effort.
Both the FJP and the Salifis believed the military was continuing
policies of the Mubarak regime by targeting the Islamist candidates.
Al-Shater was especially outspoken, saying, “If any party whether
(the ruling military) or the election commission or security agencies
imagine that using Mubarak’s old ways will lead to our defeat or stop
us, it is a dream that will not be realized.” He added, “We will not
allow the revolution to be stolen from us.”
Abu Ismail accused the commission of falsifying the evidence against
him. “We are exposed to a conspiracy by parties that you cannot
imagine. What is happening inside the committee is treachery to
create divisions,” he said. He challenged the commission to present
the evidence against him – evidence supplied by the US State
Department who turned over the information after it was requested by
the Egyptian government.
The volatility of the national mood would be tested severely if the
military were to delay the presidential vote. The Supreme Council of
the Armed Forces (SCAF), which holds executive power, have made a
decision that the presidential elections will only take place after
the new document is written. This reflects the widespread belief
among the more secular and moderate elements in Egyptian society that
no president should take power under the old constitution, which
grants broad and dangerous powers to the chief executive. The
practical effect of this decision is a delay in the vote, given the
unlikely event that a panel to write the document can be empowered
and the constitution completed before the first round of voting in
The US is urging that the election should go forward anyway. State
Department spokesman Mark Toner told a press briefing, “Our concern
is that we want to see a fair and transparent process moving forward
and a successful election and handover of power to a civilian
government along the time frame that the (military council) has
already laid out.”
But the military fears an Islamist president would strip them of
power, expropriate the businesses that enrich current and former
officers, and reduce their imprint on Egyptian society. They want a
constitution that would leave them as they are now — the dominant
force in the life of the country. Whether that’s possible, given the
fierce opposition of the Egyptian street, is one reason drawing up
the new constitution will take more than the few weeks remaining
before the presidential vote.
The disqualifications have fueled these suspicions and that SCAF will
influence the writing of the constitution to make sure they maintain
their perks in the economic and social spheres. And while the
Islamists reluctantly agree that a new constitution should be in
place before the election is held, their revolutionary supporters
will not sit still for a delay. Egypt’s youth have made it clear that
a delay will be seen as a betrayal, which means there would be an
effort to recreate the kinds of street protests that toppled Hosni
Mubarak. Even the Islamists might feel compelled to join the protests
if that were to occur.
A protest by supporters of all three ousted candidates is scheduled
for Friday after prayers, which almost guarantees a huge turnout. The
situation in the street will only add to the feelings of uncertainty
and confusion that have now plunged the country into another crisis.
(Copyright © 2012 FrontPageMagazine.com 04/18/12)
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