April 18 (Bloomberg) -- Disqualified Islamist presidential hopeful Khairat el-Shater criticized Egypt’s ruling military council after he was expelled from the race as tensions mounted before the first vote for a head of state since the fall of Hosni Mubarak.
El-Shater, the former second-in-command of the Muslim Brotherhood who was fielded as its main candidate, said in Cairo today that the election-commission head should be dismissed and that there were indications the military council doesn’t “have a serious or genuine intention for a real power transfer.”
“This isn’t the real change that the revolution wants, and that the people erupted for,” el-Shater said at a news conference. “We are seeing a clear attempt to reproduce the old tyrannical regime, even if in a different form. This is the main danger.”
Ten prospective candidates were excluded from the presidential elections due to begin on May 23, a move that strips the race of some of its most controversial figures. They include el-Shater, the more conservative Salafi cleric Hazem Abu Ismail and Mubarak’s longtime intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, who also served as vice president in the ousted ruler’s final days. The decision was confirmed by the election commission yesterday.
“The decision to ban Shater and the other candidates will increase political tensions with the military during the campaign,” IHS Jane’s Middle East analyst David Hartwell wrote in a note. “The falling-out in March between the Muslim Brotherhood and the military has markedly increased mutual suspicions and led many Egyptians to conclude that the Brotherhood is in danger of politically over-reaching.”
The Brotherhood party has criticized the generals for ignoring its demand to fire the interim government, which it accuses of failing to restore security or help the economy recover. The political wrangling adds to the turmoil surrounding Egypt’s transition and stifles efforts to boost an economy that contracted last year.
“There are attempts to maneuver around and tamper with the process of democratic transition and to prevent the people from choosing their president and government in a real and democratic way,” el-Shater said today. The expulsions are a crime against the country, he said.
El-Shater disputed the legal reasons given for his disqualification and said the decision showed that Mubarak’s government “still rules.”
Call to Rally
The Brotherhood is calling for a rally on April 20 because “the revolution is in danger” and to push for “a real power transfer,” he said. The ruling military council has said it will hand power to civilians by the end of June.
The Islamist group is still contesting the race after naming a back-up candidate, Mohamed Morsi, who heads its Freedom and Justice Party. The party makes up the largest bloc in parliament.
A group of Abu Ismail supporters, many clutching his photo, camped out today outside the elections commission to protest against his expulsion. “They want to exclude Abu Ismail because he is the Islamist candidate who has clearly announced he would apply the Islamic Sharia law if he won,” Gamal Saber, manager of a campaign supporting the Salafi candidate, said by phone.
Suleiman and Abu Ismail were among the three top contenders for the post, according to a poll conducted by Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies and published April 16. Suleiman led with 31.7 percent, followed by former Arab League Secretary General Amre Moussa with 22.3 percent, according to the survey. Abu Ismail was in third with 21.4 percent.
Suleiman’s elimination removes a figure whose candidacy was seen by the Brotherhood and others an attempt to recreate the ousted regime and an effort by the ruling military to ensure that their interests remain untouched.
The military has denied any such ambitions and insists it is not backing any candidate.
To contact the reporter on this story: Mariam Fam in Cairo at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Digby Lidstone at email@example.com