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Egypt: The Drama of the Presidential Race

This post is part of our special coverage of Egypt Elections 2011/12.

It has been reported that since January 25, 2011 the profits of the Egyptian film industry have dropped, and the main reason must be that the drama in the political arena since that time cannot be beaten by any movies. The suspense has currently reached a peak thanks to the presidential elections race.

Hazem Salah's Mom
Hazem Salah Abou-Ismail, the Salafi cleric, is one of the candidates with the biggest chance of success, with a large number of supporters and endless posters all over the country. However, news came weeks ago that his mother might have American citizenship, and as the constitutional amendments made last year state that applicants cannot stand for presidential elections if at least one parent or spouse holds foreign nationality, Abou Ismail might be disqualified if this is proved to be the case.

Rally in Tahrir Square on April 13, 2012. Image by Flickr user Mosa'ab Elshamy (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

Since then contradictory news has been appearing on a daily basis, and during the past weeks it has been normal to see people asking for updates:

@AmrEzzat: هو إيه آخر أخبار مسلسل السيدة الفاضلة والدة حازم صلاح أبو إسماعيل؟
@AmrEzzat: What is the latest news in the drama about Hazem Salah Abou Ismail's mother?

It's an ironic situation because the Salafis argued for the constitutional amendments:

@Mohamed_Habib_T: ما يثير الضحك والبكاء هو أن السلفيين الذين أيدوا التعديلات الدستورية بقوة هم أول من اصطلى بنارها فى أزمة الجنسية الأمريكية لوالدة حازم صلاح
@Mohamed_Habib_T: What makes one laugh and cry at the same time is that the Salafis who supported the constitutional amendments are the first to be burnt by them in this dilemma about the U.S. citizenship of Hazem Salah's mother

According to Egyptian law, a person should get permission before taking another country's citizenship, and failing to do so means that the local authority will not be aware of the citizen's second nationality. Knowing this, Abou Ismail – who is a lawyer himself – filed a lawsuit calling for the Interior Ministry to prove his mother's U.S. citizenship, which it was unable to do. Doing this changed the question from whether his mother holds U.S. citizenship to whether the Ministry of Interior has the papers to prove it or not, and last Wednesday the court gave Hazem Salah's presidential dream a kiss of life, waiting for the final decision of the Supreme Committee for Elections.

The Chess Game of SCAF and the Muslim Brotherhood
The next two big candidates are Khairat El Shater and Omar Suleiman. The Muslim Brotherhood introduced Khairat El Shater into the presidential race very recently, despite their earlier pledge not to run a candidate for president. They even expelled Abdel-Monem Aboul-Futouh from the Brotherhood for defying that very pledge earlier.

A short while later Omar Suleiman entered the race. Zeinobia wrote about his entry:

Others believe that this is the answer of SCAF to El Shater’s candidacy and that the military is using the fear of the Islamists that is growing among the middle class.

Suleiman was Mubarak's vice president, yet according to Zeinobia he said the following in his announcement:

I decided to run for presidency in order to achieve the goals and aims of the January 25th revolution!

The Muslim Brotherhood compared Khairat El Shater – who was imprisoned many times during the Mubarak era – to Prophet Joseph who came out of jail to rule Egypt. Zeinobia commented:

The Muslim brotherhood boys decided that he was Joseph 2012 who will save the Egyptian economy !! Of course the old Joseph , the real Prophet Joseph did not call for the privatization of water or electricity or allowing the private sector to control the infrastructure of a third world country that already suffered a lot from corruption in the past 30 years!

She then added how Omar Suleiman supporters compared him to King Solomon, and comparing his opponents to ants that should hide or else they'll get crushed:

Interestingly enough El Shater’s nemesis in the presidential elections Omar Soliman is now being described by his supporters as King Solomon !!!
In a press release issued today by Soliman’s campaigner Samual Al Ashay, we find a quote by Mohamed Anatar. [...] Anater ended his statement with a warning to the Muslim Brotherhood with a quote from the Qur'an: “O you ants, go into your homes, lest you get crushed by Solomon and his soldiers, without perceiving.”

Both the revolutionaries and the Muslim Brotherhood have been united in rejecting Suleiman. Raafatology wrote how Suleiman's belief that revolutionaries might support him to rescue them from the Muslim Brotherhood are totally wrong:

ظن الرجل أننا سنرحب بمخططه الشيطانى ونهلل له كمنقذ على حصان أبيض حتى يخلصنا من الإخوان و السلفين ومن على شاكلتهم
ظن وظنه الخطأ. فنحن رغم ما عانيناه من الإخوان ومن تلونهم والعمل على مصلحتهم فقط فلن نقبل يوماً بعمر سليمان رئيساً للخلاص من الإخوان وكذبهم ونفاقهم السياسى
This guy thought that we would welcome his devilish plan and cheer him as a saviour on a white horse who would rescue us from the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis. This is what he thinks, but he is totally wrong. Despite what we suffered from the Muslim Brotherhood and how they changed their position, and work in their own interests only, we will never support Omar Suleiman as president to save us from their lies and political hypocrisy.

The parliament with its Islamic majority has been working on passing a law that bars the “remnants” (unreformed loyalists of the former regime) from entering the presidential race:

@alaa: دلوقتي مجلس الشغب اصدر قانون العزل و بصياغة يبدوا انها جيدة، يتبقى ان يصدق عليه المجلس العسكري. نزول الاخوان غدا لضمان التصديق
@alaa: Now the parliament has drafted a political isolation law, and its form seems to be good. Now it's SCAF's turn to approve it, and the Muslim Brotherhood are going to demonstrate tomorrow to ensure such approval.

The recent tension between the Muslim Brotherhood and SCAF, and the moves they have both made in the presidential race, made Mohamed Ibrahim ‏describe the race as a chess game:

@M_I_A_H: نحن مجرد متفرجين على لعبه شطرنج تلعب على اعلى مستوى ما بين القوى السياسه و المجلس العسكرى
@M_I_A_H: We are just spectators of a chess game being played at the highest level between the political forces and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces

The Game Changer
On Saturday April 14 came the news that turned everything upside down, as AhramOnline reported:

The body overseeing Egypt's presidential election disqualified 10 candidates from the race on Saturday, including the Muslim Brotherhood's Khairat al-Shater, former spy chief Omar Suleiman and Salafi sheikh Hazem Salah Abu-Ismail, Ayman Nour, and Mortada Mansour.

The candidates still have 48 hours to appeal against the decision; however, the disqualification of the three candidates mentioned above has been the focus of most discussions on Twitter and blogs.

Bassem Sabry gave detailed reasons as to why each candidate was disqualified.

Ahmad Mahmoud Ali mocked the fact that all the candidates were disqualified at once:

@Ahmadmahmoudali: انباء عن استبعاد جميع مرشحين الرئاسة و إلغاء منصب رئيس الجمهورية
@Ahmadmahmoudali: News that all candidates have been disqualified and the post of the president will be cancelled.

Farid Salem expected the remaining candidates to be very happy, especially Aboul Fotouh and Amr Moussa:

@farid56: النهاردة سهرة سعيدة لابو الفتوح ، ولعمرو موسي
@farid56: Tonight it will be a happy night for both Aboul Fotouh and Amr Moussa

Ahmad Shokr added: ‏

@ahmadshokr: Omar Suleiman disqualified for failure to collect required signatures from 15 governorates. Deep state may not be so deep after all #egypt

While Tarek Shalaby couldn't care less about the elections:

@tarekshalaby: These elections are totally for entertainment and anthropological purposes – they have nothing to do with our ongoing revolution. #jan25

And finaly, Ahmed Abd Rabo went further, seeing a conspiracy being cooked: ‏

@3bdrabo25: استبعاد 10 مرشحين هل كان لدفع انصارهم للشارع مع ازدياد الازمات هل لفرض صراع بينهم او مع الدولة كمبرر لفرض احكام عرفية.هل هناك انتخابات
@3bdrabo25: Is the disqualification of 10 candidates meant to push their supporters to take to the streets? And with an escalation of the current crises, might it end with fights between them and each other or between them and the state, which would then be used as a justification to introduce martial law? Will there be elections?

This post is part of our special coverage of Egypt Elections 2011/12.

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