SPEC evacuated as Salafist candidate supporters lay siege in protest

Ahram Online, Saturday 14 Apr 2012

Several thousand Abu-Ismail supporters want no surprises; pushing for official confirmation that the Salafist candidate can run for president

Abundance of Hazem Abu-Ismail’s supporters turned up on April 30 as he submitted the mandatory recommendations to run for presidency (Photo: Mai Shaheen)

Several thousand supporters of presidential hopeful, Hazem Salah Abu-Ismail, headed in protest to the headquarters of the Supreme Presidential Electoral Commission (SPEC) late Friday, demanding a confirmation that the Salafist lawyer would be allowed to run for president.

The rally at the SPEC headquarters (in Misr El-Gedida/Heliopolis district) was overpowering and employees reportedly received threats from some overenthusiastic protesters that they would break into the building, which they surrounded for hours.

Tamer Bagato, Secretary General of the SPEC, told Al-Ahram’s Arabic website that he ordered the building be evacuated out of fear for the life of the commission's roughly 40 employees.

Bagato also denounced the demonstration, saying: “The commission’s decisions are not administrative, but rather legal verdicts returned by the five members of the commission. They are from the most senior judges in the country, who would never make a decision under the effect of pressure and terror.”

The followers of the Salafist poster-child seem to be convinced that the verdict returned by the State Council administrative court on Wednesday obliges the SPEC to accept Abu-Ismail as a presidential candidate. However, the commission is yet to announce the final list of candidates.

The administrative court’s verdict, which was announced late on Wednesday, mandated that the Ministry of Interior hand Abu-Ismail an official document stipulating that the ministry cannot prove that Abu-Ismail's late mother held a nationality other than Egyptian.

Abu Ismail is in danger of not being eligible to run for president because interior and foreign ministries and the US State Department confirm his mother had acquired a US passport before she died. If she held dual citizenship (American and Egyptian), according to presidential eligibility regulation, that eliminates Abu Ismail from running in the presidential race.

With this struggle taken to court, the judge ruled that if the ministry of interior cannot prove that the mother of the Salafist presidential hopeful held dual citizenship, then they must issue a certificate that would expressly state this so he can continue his presidential bid.

Legal experts, however, argue that the verdict does not unequivocally prove that Abu-Ismail’s mother did not hold the US citizenship, as was widely claimed.

The SPEC is, moreover, not subject to judicial authority pursuant to Article 28 of the constitutional declaration, issued by the ruling military junta, following a plebiscite in March 2011.

Consequently, the SPEC is not legally obliged to obey any court ruling and is solely responsible for its decisions, including the elimination of presidential candidates it deems ineligible.

Bagato said, “Abu-Ismail saw the papers that proves his mother actually did have US nationality, so we don’t really know why does he is doing all of this. The commission hasn't even made a decision yet.”

The rally by the SPEC was staged after thousands of Abu-Ismail’s supporters flooded Tahrir Square on Friday during a mass protest named “the Friday of Protecting the Revolution.”

It was jointly called for by the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafist Front to voice their flat-out rejection of the presidential candidacy of senior members of the regime of ousted president Hosni Mubarak, especially former vice president and intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman.

Abu-Ismail’s supporters reiterated the same demand while protesting at the SPEC premises.

The SPEC is expected to announce a list of applicants who are legally qualified for the presidency on 26 April.

Abu-Ismail is the son of late high-profile Islamist figure Salah Abu-Ismail, who was a prominent Al-Azhar scholar, a long-standing member of Parliament and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Salafist contender announced his bid for the presidency in May 2011 and has been considered a frontrunner in the 2012 race. His bid, however, has faltered since reports circulated that his mother was a US national.

Presidential elections will take place on 23 and 24 May, and the president will be named on 21 June after a runoff-voting round on 16 and 17 June.

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