Egypt refers ban on presidency candidates to court as activists plan mass protests

Egypt’s military rulers have asked the constitutional court to rule on whether top officials from Hosni Mubarak’s era can run for the presidency, a judicial source said on Thursday, after the Islamist-dominated parliament passed a law banning them.
Thursday, April 19, 2012

Egypt’s military rulers have asked the constitutional court to rule on whether top officials from Hosni Mubarak’s era can run for the presidency, a judicial source said on Thursday, after the Islamist-dominated parliament passed a law banning them.

Activists, meanwhile, have called for mass protests on Friday against senior officials and politicians who served under Mubarak and the military council’s handling of the 14 months since he was removed from power by an uprising.

Last week’s new law must be passed by the ruling military council to take effect.

MPs drafted the legislation in response Mubarak spy chief Omar Suleiman’s decision to run for the presidency. Suleiman has since been disqualified on the grounds that he failed to secure enough voter endorsements to run.

The legislation, if approved, could disqualify former prime minister Ahmed Shafiq -- in power during Mubarak’s last days.

The Supreme Constitutional Court is expected to issue its ruling within 15 days. A minister in the army-appointed government last week described the law as “a deviation” that targeted one or two people, according to Reuters.

The presidential election starts on May 23 with two days of voting and is expected to go to a June run-off between the top two candidates. Front-runners include the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Mursi, former member of the Islamist group Abdul Moniem Abul Fotouh and former Arab League chief and Egypt’s foreign minister for a decade, Amr Moussa.

The legislation, an amendment to the law governing political rights, covers anyone who served in a list of top positions in government and the ruling party during Mubarak’s last decade in power. The list does not include the position of minister, meaning it does not threaten Moussa’s bid.

The generals are due to hand power to the new president by July 1 and have been governing with Mubarak’s presidential powers, giving parliament limited authority, though the chamber was elected in Egypt’s most democratic election in six decades.

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood candidate Khairat al-Shater speaking to his supporters during a campaign rally in Cairo. (Reuters)

The powerful Muslim Brotherhood’s Khairat al-Shater, barred from Egypt’s first post-Arab Spring presidential election, accused the country’s military rulers on Wednesday of seeking to stay in power and promised an anti-government protest.

He spoke after the electoral commission confirmed that 10 candidates had been barred from standing, rejecting challenges by him and another Islamist and the old regime’s spy chief.

“The way the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) runs Egypt ... shows manipulation in the democratization process and a desire to prevent people from democratically electing their president,” Shater told journalists, according to AFP.

He said the Islamists would join a demonstration on Friday.

He called on Egyptians to “protect the revolution,” warning that plans for electoral fraud and vote-buying were under way.

He promised “to topple the remains of the Mubarak regime.”

The Salafists also vented their fury against the army council ruling Egypt.

The latest developments in the presidential campaign further complicate the transition to democracy after the ouster of Mubarak.

Last week, a Cairo court suspended the Islamist-dominated commission tasked with drafting a new constitution amid a boycott by liberals, moderate Muslims and the Coptic church.

The panel, which is evenly divided between parliamentarians and public figures, was elected by the parliament. But most of its members were from the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist fundamentalists who hold the majority in both houses of parliament.

The secular parties claimed their presence was only used as a smoke screen allowing the Islamists to draft a basic law reflecting their ideologies.

The secularists want a more balanced commission, fearing the Islamist grip would lead to the strengthening of a demand for Islamic Sharia law to be the point of reference for legislation.