The disqualified candidates, including an ultra-conservative Islamic preacher, Hazem Abu Ismail, and the Muslim Brotherhood’s top strategist, Khairat el-Shater, had until Monday night to appeal the decision. Suleiman, Abu Ismail and Shater all did, and a final list of candidates is due to be released April 26.
Suleiman’s critics have celebrated his disqualification.
“This is good news for human rights,” said Heba Morayef, an Egypt researcher for Human Rights Watch who has studied torture in Egypt carried out under Suleiman’s intelligence service. “His abusive record would mean he’d rely on similar abusive practices if he were president. It would be a regression even from the time of Mubarak.”
Suleiman’s candidacy was voided because he apparently lacked the requisite number of signatures to be included on the ballot. But already, there have been whispers that his candidacy will be restored by the commission, which is made up of Mubarak-appointed judges.
Suleiman has presented himself as a bulwark against the rise of Islamism, using Mubarak-era language to portray the once-repressed and now-ascendant Muslim Brotherhood as frightening and detrimental to Egypt.
His campaign has the backing of wealthy businessmen and former members of Mubarak’s National Democratic Party, which is now defunct. There are also indications that Suleiman has the support of at least some elements of the intelligence service, spawning fears among Egyptians that he could use his connections to propel himself to the presidency and bring back an autocratic government.
But Egypt’s security establishment might not be united behind Suleiman.
Khaled Fahmy, a professor of history at the American University in Cairo, said Suleiman’s disqualification brings into sharp focus the rift between the former spy chief and the head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi. Fahmy, a critic of Suleiman, blamed the military rulers for failing to manage the difficult transition to civilian rule and expressed concern that there could be a violent public reaction if the three front-runners remain disqualified.
“We are witnessing a serious crisis,” Fahmy said, adding that there could be large protests Friday if the three major candidates are not restored to the ballot. “The Egyptian state has effectively collapsed, so taking to the streets now is out of desperation. There’s nothing left to destroy.”