SPEC sources on presidency race: Abu-Ismail, Suleiman out; El-Shater in

Ahram Online, Tuesday 17 Apr 2012

Initial reports from judicial sources say ex-intel chief and Salafist candidate have been disqualified from presidential race, while Brotherhood's El-Shater has been cleared to run

Egypt's eliminated presidential hopefuls Hazem Salah Abu-Ismail, Khairat Al-Shater and Omar Suleiman (Photo: Al-Ahram)

Sources at Egypt's Supreme Presidential Electoral Commission (SPEC) on Tuesday said that both ex-intelligence chief Omar Suleiman and Salafist preacher Hazem Abu-Ismail would be disqualified from upcoming presidential elections slated for May. The Muslim Brotherhood's Khairat El-Shater, by contrast, would be permitted to run, according to the same sources.  

The SPEC is expected to formally announce the decision at 8pm Cairo time.   

The reported verdict comes after the three main disqualified contenders lodged appeals on Sunday with the SPEC. One day earlier, the SPEC had disqualified a total of ten presidential candidates, including the three frontrunners and seven other contenders.   

El-Shater, a candidate for the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), had been initially disqualified due to his questionable legal status.

El-Shater's lawyers had responded to the decision by accusing the SPEC of "blatant error" since it had failed to acknowledge that a judicial pardon previously granted to their client had covered all charges brought against him. His lawyers went on to assert that the SPEC was in "a state of confusion."

In 2006, El-Shater was accused of money laundering and funding a "banned group," in reference to the then-outlawed Brotherhood. His case was referred to a military tribunal, which sentenced him in 2008 to seven years in prison.

He was eventually released four years later for health reasons, however, following Mubarak's ouster in February of last year.

The SPEC, a body of judges appointed by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), says it thoroughly checked all applicants’ paperwork and examined all complaints filed against them before deciding their respective electoral fates.

El-Shater was ultimately disqualified from the SPEC's official list of presidential contenders based on the second charge levelled against him, namely that of belonging to a "banned group."

Moreover, the Brotherhood's subsequent decision to field a second presidential candidate from within its own ranks – FJP head Mohamed Morsi – came as a response to the possibility of El-Shater's elimination from the race.

Abu-Ismail, meanwhile, was eliminated from the presidential contest on grounds that his late mother held dual Egyptian-US citizenship. According to regulations governing elections, candidates cannot vie for the presidency if they – or their parents – hold foreign nationality.        

The decision to disqualify Abu-Ismail came despite a State Administrative Court ruling on Wednesday calling on the interior ministry to provide Abu-Ismail with official documentation verifying that the ministry could not prove that the candidate's mother held a foreign passport.

Following the verdict, the ministry presented a certificate to Abu-Ismail certifying that his mother had never applied for ministry permission to apply for US citizenship.

The decision, however, does not conclusively prove that Abu-Ismail's mother did not hold US nationality, since she could have applied for US citizenship without obtaining the ministry's approval.

Egypt's foreign ministry, meanwhile, along with the interior ministry and the US State Department, have stated that Abu-Ismail's mother had, in fact, acquired a US passport before her death.

Pursuant to Article 28 of the constitutional declaration issued by the SCAF in March of last year and approved via popular referendum, the SPEC is not subject to judicial authorities. The SPEC, therefore, is not legally obliged to carry out court rulings, and is solely responsible for its own decisions, including the disqualification of presidential candidates.

Since Sunday, Abu-Ismail supporters – commonly known as "Hazemoon" – have been staging a sit-in outside SPEC headquarters in Cairo's Heliopolis district. They remain the only bloc of supporters to stage protests against their candidate's expected disqualification.

Suleiman, for his part, was ruled out of the race for failing to collect a sufficient number of signatures from 15 Egyptian governorates. Would-be presidential candidates must obtain 30,000 citizens' signatures from across the country in support of their nominations. 

A SPEC source on Sunday told Ahram Online that approximately half of Suleiman's signature petitions had been forged.     

The SPEC is expected to announce its final list of approved candidates on 26 April.

Presidential elections will take place on 23 and 24 May, with a runoff round – if necessary – slated for 16 and 17 June. Egypt's new president will be formally named on 21 June.

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