New hopefuls in Egypt race

New hopefuls in Egypt race

New hopefuls in Egypt race

Egyptian presidential candidate and former Arab League secretary general Amr Moussa (C) prays with Bedouins in a mosque in Ras Sidr during his presidential campaign tour to South Sinai. REUTERS photo

Egypt’s election commission has rejected the appeals of 10 candidates, including the three former main contenders for President, paving the way for three other candidates to boost their support in the upcoming May elections.

The commission’s decision removes the top contenders in the race, Mubarak-era strongman Omar Suleiman, Muslim Brotherhood chief strategist Khairat al-Shater and Hazem Abu Ismail, a lawyer turned hard-line preacher. The panel had announced their disqualification over the weekend, shocking many in the country. Each appealed the decision but on April 17 the panel rejected the appeals.

Suleiman was disqualified because he fell short of the required number of public endorsements; al-Shater because of a previous conviction; Abu Ismail because his mother held American citizenship briefly before her death in 2010. With those three out, the top contenders in the race are seen to be former foreign minister and Arab League chief Amr Moussa, moderate Islamist Abdel-Moneim Abolfotoh and the Brotherhood’s backup candidate, Mohammed Morsi. Voting will take place May 23 and 24.

‘Morsi: weaker than al-Shater’

Political analysts see Morsi, a 60-year old engineer, as a much weaker candidate than al-Shater. “Morsi was the backup for a reason,” said Shadi Hamid, an expert on the Brotherhood. “Al-Shater was the only one among them who looked remotely presidential. It’s a big blow to the Brotherhood.” With a Morsi candidacy, there are also greater chances of Brotherhood internal discipline breaking down and some of its votes going to Abolfotoh.

He was expelled from the group last year when he decided to launch his own presidential bid. “Abolfotoh will get many of the votes that were going to go to al-Shater and Abu Ismail, as many will not be convinced by Morsi, who has been away from the Egyptian media for quite some time,” said Nabil Abdel Fattah, a political scientist. Abolfotoh, 60, was part of a moderate reformist wing in the Brotherhood until his expulsion.

Amr Moussa, who describes himself as a liberal nationalist, is likely to win votes among secular-minded Egyptians worried about the dramatic gains made by Islamists in the year since Mubarak was toppled. The 75-year-old, a former Egyptian Foreign Minister, has moved squarely back to the heart of the race thanks to the disqualifications. Moussa was due to launch his campaign manifesto yesterday in a slum on the outskirts of Egyptian capital Cairo.