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Egypt: Delay Possible In Presidential Elections – OpEd

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By Mohyeddin Sajedi

All that has happened in Egypt is the overthrow of its dictator Hosni Mubarak and the preservation of the government and the rules which were established, strengthened and stabilized by him.

The contrast between the “legitimacy of the revolution” and the “legitimacy of former rules and government” is the major problem in Egypt at the moment.

The disqualification of some of the prime candidates for the first presidential elections after the overthrow of Mubarak has confronted the country with more complication on the threshold of this important change and there is even the possibility of outbreaks of violent clashes and mass protests.

The junta in Egypt is trying to rule the country by preserving the former governing system. The trends which stand against the revolution in Egypt have also benefited from the rules which so far the junta has not tried to change.

Immediately after the revolution and through revolutionary legitimization, it was natural that Mubarak’s name was removed from the streets signs, buildings and schools. However, a group of legal experts proposed that, based on the rules remaining from the Mubarak era, changing the names had been illegal and the court ruled in their favor.

Based on this, Omar Suleiman, the second important person in Mubarak’s government, gets a chance to announce his candidacy for the election as it is “what people want!”. Egypt’s new parliament acted quickly and enforced a law under which none of the members of the ousted ex-ruler Hosni Mubarak’s regime are allowed to run for president. However, now it is clear that the new law of the revolution era is not valid because it is in contrast to the pre-revolution laws.

Egypt’s presidential election commission has disqualified 10 of the candidates from the upcoming election, including Omar Suleiman. The reason behind the disqualification, based on the pre-revolution laws, is that he has not collected enough signatures from his supporters. The Muslim Brotherhood’s Khairat al-Shater has also been disqualified because he was in prison under Mubarak’s regime and was granted a pardon by the junta, thus he could not run for president. Moreover, the Salafi nominee was disqualified because his mother had held American citizenship for four years. Even Ayman Nour was disqualified because he had been a political prisoner during Mubarak’s reign.

All these people are entitled to seek appeal. The Muslim Brotherhood has introduced head of Justice and Freedom Party, Muhammad Morsi, as reserve candidate, but Salafis have not introduced a reserve candidate yet. If the appeal bid fails, the former Egyptian foreign minister and former secretary-general of the Arab League, Amr Mousa, will stand a better chance of winning. A large part of Salafis will probably support Muhammad Morsi.

There is also a candidate for those who are still attached to the fallen regime. That candidate is General Ahmed Shafik, the former air force commander and the last prime minister under Hosni Mubarak who claims that it was due to the Egyptian revolution that he was appointed to that post for a short time. Before the Egyptian revolution and while Jamal Mubarak was a possible successor to his father, Ahmed Shafik was known as the candidate having the Egyptian military’s support.

Protests to the High Election Commission will not remain limited to disqualifications. Supporters of the Salafi candidate are determined to keep Hazem Abu Ismail on the list and, therefore, eruption of new street violence is not a remote possibility.

There have been calls for another demonstration in protest to disqualifications. Parties belonging to Egyptian youth who started the revolution will possibly not take part in it as they have proposed no candidate for the election.

According to the announcement of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, presidential elections will be held in June. The important question is will Egypt have a new constitution by that time?

The Egyptian parliament, with two-thirds of its seats held by Islamist figures from the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi parties, had set up a 100-member council to formulate the country’s new constitution. Half of its members were lawmakers and another half came from outside the parliament. Predominance of the Islamist figures in the composition of the council caused some members to walk out. Al-Azhar, for instance, withdrew its representatives. Coptic Christians as well as secular and liberal figures had already left the council. The crisis inside the council reached its climax when it became clear that according to laws passed under Mubarak’s regime, the parliament is not entitled to determine members of the council. In any case, the council has been suspended.

As June is approaching, it is not clear whether the Egyptian constitution will be ready by that time and put to referendum. The military council has made power transfer conditional on the formulation of the new constitution. Therefore, Egypt’s political and security predicament may be further complicated by new ambiguities.

Mohyeddin Sajedi is a prominent Iranian political analyst who writes extensively on the Middle East issues. He also serves as a Middle East expert at the Center for Middle East Strategic Studies in Tehran.

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