File photo: A general view of Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman, center back, meeting with leaders of Egyptian parties and the Muslim brotherhood leadership in Cairo (Photo: AP)
Former Mubarak vice-president and long-time head of Egyptian General Intelligence Omar Suleiman plans to officially register his candidacy for Egypt’s upcoming presidential election, according to news reports.
For months there has been unconfirmed speculation that Suleiman was going to announce a presidential run, but the rumours were consistently denied by Suleiman himself. On 8 February of last year, as the Tahrir Square uprising was approaching conclusion, Suleiman famously told American television host Christine Amanpour that he did not intend to run for Egypt’s highest office since he was “an old man.”
This time, however, the rumours appear to have been confirmed by a number of sources, along with recent photos showing the former intelligence czar meeting with members of his campaign team.
According to reports in several Egyptian newspapers on Monday, Suleiman has told his campaign team that he planned to officially register himself as a candidate in Egypt’s 2012 presidential elections with the High Presidential Elections Committee in Cairo on Wednesday. Members of Suleiman's campaign team have said in recent days that they had managed to collect some 70,000 citizens’ signatures in support of the former spy chief's presidential bid.
Still, there has been no direct confirmation from the media-shy former major general himself, who has not spoken directly to the press since 11 February 2011, when he addressed the nation immediately after former president Hosni Mubarak formally relinquished the presidency.
News of Suleiman’s candidacy has been met with derision by political forces from across the political spectrum, most of whom see him as a Mubarak-era holdover.
The Muslim Brotherhood, which held talks with Suleiman during the early days of the revolution, has rejected his candidacy.
"Fielding a Brotherhood candidate for the presidency is now an option after the announcement of Suleiman's presidential bid, despite our earlier decision not to field a candidate," Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Badie said on Sunday.
There is now speculation that the Brotherhood will announce leading group member and businessman Khairat El-Shater as its presidential nominee. The Brotherhood's influential Guidance Bureau is expected to meet on Tuesday to announce the group's official candidate.
Suleiman represents the third major presidential candidate to be drawn from Egyptian General Intelligence after General Hossam Khairallah and Major General Mamdouh Qotub. He is the fourth major presidential candidate to have a military background after Khairallah, Qotub and former prime minister Ahmed Shafik.
In the final decade of the Mubarak era, Suleiman had been considered a possible successor to the aging head of state and a potential rival of presidential scion Gamal Mubarak.