Egypt Announces Final List for Presidential Election Vote

Egypt’s elections commission announced a final list of 13 candidates for the May presidential race, where the fight between Islamists, secularists and supporters of former President Hosni Mubarak has obscured prospects of a smooth transition to democracy.

Ahmed Shafik, who was appointed prime minister in Mubarak’s final days, was among the 13, according to the list read to reporters in Cairo by presidential elections commission head Farouk Soultan. Shafik had previously been told he couldn’t run. It also includes the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice party head, Mohamed Morsi, former Brotherhood member Abdel Moneim Aboul-Fotouh and former Arab League Secretary-General Amre Moussa.

The first presidential ballot since Mubarak’s departure is scheduled for May 23 and May 24. If required, runoffs will be held on June 16 and June 17 and the final result announced on June 21. Islamists say the commission’s decision to block two of their most prominent candidates indicates an attempt to restore Egypt’s old regime.

The Brotherhood, whose political arm controls nearly half the seats in parliament’s lower house, has been critical of the disqualification of its chief candidate, Khairat el-Shater, while the commission reversed its earlier ruling and allowed Shafik to run. The group is calling for rallies “to defend the revolution” in squares across the country tomorrow.

Defending the Revolution

“We want to stress the importance of a power handover on the scheduled time and holding elections on time,” Brotherhood spokesman Mahmoud Ghozlan said by phone. “We also want to make sure that the military council stays away from the assembly tasked with writing a constitution and from the constitution itself.”

Ghozlan criticized the elections commission’s reinstatement of Shafik after a law was passed by parliament and approved by the military rulers barring some former Mubarak officials from running for office for a decade. The commission yesterday reinstated Shafik after having disqualified him earlier in the week. It also referred the law to the constitutional court for its review. In all, 10 candidates were knocked out of the race for various technicalities.

“The goal is to keep Islamists, and especially Khairat el- Shater, away from this position and to support Ahmed Shafik,” Ghozlan said.

Clouded Prospects

The tensions surrounding the race, along with an ongoing fight between the government and the Islamist-dominated parliament over the country’s proposed short-term plan, have further clouded the prospects for an economic recovery.

Moody’s Investors Service today said it was extending the time frame of its review of Egypt’s B2 rating for a possible downgrade to incorporate the credit implications of the upcoming elections and talks with the International Monetary Fund on a $3.2 billion loan.

“The repeated changes in government leadership have resulted in ineffective and unpredictable economic policies, which have in turn undermined government finances and investor confidence,” Moody’s said in a statement.

Soultan defended the commission’s decision to disqualify 10 candidates and said the body rejects attempts to cast doubt on its integrity.

Islamist-Dominated Parliament

Asked about concerns the vote may be delayed, Soultan said: “We are proceeding according to the schedule. The commission will continue its procedures until the elections process concludes unless state authorities decide to halt elections.”

The decision to bar Shafik followed the passage of a law drafted by the Islamist-dominated parliament. It appeared to be aimed at preventing Mubarak’s longtime intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman, from running for the head of state’s post. Suleiman, who served as vice president in the Mubarak administration’s final days, was ultimately removed from the race by the commission on electoral technicalities. Both he and the military denied the Islamists’ allegations.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tarek El-Tablawy in Cairo at teltablawy@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net

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