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By Shozab Raza
More than a year ago, President Hosni Mubarak was forced to resign due to the determined, non-violent demands of protesters across the country. Hailed by a 2012 Human Rights Watch report as a victory for ‘social justice [and] democracy, and an end to police brutality’, it called for a stop to the abuses of his military regime. Only now though, are the dreams of what Samer Soliman, writing in Ahram Online, called the ‘glorious revolution’, close to realisation.
The presidential elections taking place next month, on the 23rd and 24th May, will hopefully give to the people, who fought so hard for it, reforms along with a new parliament. Reforms that the the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), failed to implement after taking control from their former leader Mubarak, along with the eradication of many of the same human rights abuses.
With this in mind, the announcement that Omar Suleiman was injecting himself into the presidential race at the last minute has caused some ‘noise’, according to Egyptian MPs. Especially since the 77-year-old had ‘repeatedly affirmed he would not run’, explains a reporter from the national newspaper Al-Ahram.
Mubarak’s chief intelligence officer, vice president and right hand man, Suleiman was not only a member of the pre-revolution political system, but one closely involved and identified with its policies, corruption and violence. After the ousting of his former president, Human Rights Watch made it clear that he ‘rebuffed calls for the most basic reforms, such as repealing the Emergency Law, and instead claimed that Egyptians are “not ready for democracy”’.
Perhaps the greatest resistance to his candidacy comes from the Freedom and Justice Party, seen as the ‘political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood’ of Egypt by journalists there, although nominally independent. The most organised and connected group of Islamist activists, it appears they have wasted no time in joining forces with both independent Islamists and liberals. One of the independents, Mohamed Abdel-Rahman asserts that ‘there is a strong front of support and coordination being built between Islamists and liberals, not just among activists but also in parliament, where MPs – whether Islamists or liberals – have come to agree that there has to be legislative action to block Suleiman’.
To this end, Friday 13th saw mainly Islamist protestors hold a rally to denounce the nominations of Mubarak-era officials, especially that of the former spy-chief, while the Disenfranchisement Law, approved recently by Parliament though not yet ratified by SCAF, stipulates that those who were part of the past regime would not be eligible to run for presidency. With all these barriers to his successfully candidacy, Suleiman was still a formidable frontrunner for the elections until the breaking news that he has been disqualified due to his recommendations not fulfilling some of the requisite requirements.
In a strange twist of events, he is joined by the Muslim Brotherhood’s leading figure Khairat El-Shater, as well as the Islamic preacher Hazem Salah Abu-Ismail. All three top runners judged ineligible, we wait to hear how their appeals fare. The fact that Abu-Ismail was rejected because his mother held US citizenship strikes a sour note in a country whose people, both at home and abroad, are often married to foreigners or are dual citizens themselves. Such extremism after the renaissance of the Arab Spring may be as worrying as the possible radical Islamisation of Egypt, or indeed the threat of Mubarak’s police state continuing in the figure of Omar Suleiman.