Egypt’s election commission rejected the appeals of three main contenders for president Tuesday, definitively removing the most polarizing candidates from the race to become the country’s first elected leader since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak. The disqualification of the three diminishes the chances that an Islamist candidate will win the presidency, but there are worries over the fallout from the decision, particularly from the supporters of one of the barred candidates, ultraconservative Islamist Hazem Abu Ismail. Around 2,000 Abu Ismail supporters had camped outside the commission’s headquarters since the previous day, demanding he be allowed to run. When the rejection was announced Tuesday evening, some of them threw stones at security and briefly scuffled with military police.
The commission’s decision removes the top contenders in the race — Mubarak-era strongman Omar Suleiman, Muslim Brotherhood chief strategist Khairat el-Shater and Abu Ismail, a lawyer turned hard-line preacher. The panel had announced their disqualification over the weekend, shocking many in the country. Each appealed the decision but on Tuesday the panel rejected the appeals.
Suleiman was disqualified because he fell short of the required number of public endorsements; el-Shater because of a previous conviction; Abu Ismail because his mother held American citizenship briefly before her death in 2010. According to a new law passed after the uprising, candidates won’t qualify if their spouses or parents hold a foreign nationality. With the three out, the top contenders in the race are seen to be former foreign minister Amr Moussa, moderate Islamist Abdel-Moneim Abolfotoh and the Brotherhood’s backup candidate, Mohammed Morsi. Voting begins May 23-24.