Only weeks after the Muslim Brotherhood broke its promise not to enter a candidate in the upcoming presidential race in Egypt, that nation’s election commission has barred 10 candidates from participating — including the one chosen by the Muslim Brotherhood. Now, the ban of a former official from the Mubarak government and two Islamist extremists has removed the three front-runners in the contest, and with the election only a few weeks away, the ban raises the question of who will be on the ballot that will be acceptable to a majority of Egyptian voters.
In the aftermath of last year’s “Arab Spring,” two Islamist parties — the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, and the Salafist Al-Nour Party — have consolidated their power in the parliament, and gained control of the committee charged with drafting the nation’s new constitution. The move to allow only token representation to Christians in the process of writing the future of Egypt led the handful of Coptic Christians on the commission to resign in protest. With clear majorities of the members of both houses of parliament in the hands of Islamists, the last remaining possible elected balance to their power would have been in the presidency.
The decision by the Freedom and Justice Party to enter Khairat el-Shater — the top financier of the party — as their candidate in the presidential contest broke their previous promise to stay out of the race. As reported previously for The New American, the decision is particularly shocking, because it risked splitting the Islamist vote between a variety of candidates, allowing a greater chance for a candidate allied with the military to win the office. The precise duties of the new President remain nebulous because the constitutional committee has yet to finalize the powers afforded to that office. It is quite possible that when Egyptians vote on May 23, they will still be uncertain as to exactly what powers will be exercise by the man whom they are electing.
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Photo of Khairat el-Shater when he was in prison: AP Images