04/16/2012, 00.00
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Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists excluded from presidential poll

The election commission bars ten candidates from running. They include former spymaster Omar Suleiman and the candidates of the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists. Catholic Church spokesman praises election officials for their transparency.

Cairo (AsiaNews) - Egyptian election officials have barred ten candidates from standing in the upcoming presidential poll, including former vice president and spy chief Omar Suleiman, rich businessman and Muslim Brotherhood's candidate Khairat al-Shater (pictured) and Salafist Hazem Salah Abu Ismail. With former Arab League chief Amr Moussa, all three were considered the leading contenders in the presidential race.

For Fr Rafik Greiche, spokesman for the Catholic Church, the election commission did its duty and contrary to what Islamists claim, did it without pressure from the military

"The ten candidates who were excluded failed to meet the requirements; it is appropriate they do not run in the election," Fr Greiche said.  "This shows the transparency of the institutions and is a good sign for a victory by pro-democracy candidates who are still excluded from running in the presidency."

The commission has not yet said why it ruled against the banned candidates; only the latter were informed. However, election official Tarek Abul Atta explained that Suleiman was excluded because he had failed to get the necessary signatures in 15 Egyptian provinces as required by the law.

Al-Shater  cannot be a candidate because, as a former convict, he has to wait six years from his release or pardon before running. He was released in March 2011 after a four-year sentence.

Ismail's candidacy was rejected because his mother is a US citizen. US authorities and Egyptian Embassy officials in Washington confirmed early reports. Under Egyptian law, both parents of candidates must be only Egyptian nationals.

Yesterday, all three excluded candidates announced that they would appeal to the Supreme Court. For al-Shater, it was a matter of "ensuring freedom and continuing the revolution;" for this reason, he would continue to fight for justice.

In the meantime, the Brotherhood's party, the Freedom and Justice Party, has already picked a replacement, Mohammed Morsy.

Abu Ismail said his exclusion was a "dangerous violation" and that he would appeal. Given his large following in the Salafist al-Nour Party, replacing him will be hard task, analysts say.

The commission will release its final list of candidates on 26 April. In the meantime, the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists have announced demonstrations against the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces for its undue influence on the commission and the election process.

For radical Islamists, the exclusion of pro-military Suleiman and other members of the former regime is a pretext to eliminate the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists, who hold 70 per cent of parliamentary seats. (S.C.)

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