The Muslim Brotherhood announced it would field a second presidential nominee
and a Salafist candidate was replaced with an even harder-line Islamic extremist
as registration closed Sunday for Egypt’s presidential race.
Brotherhood – which garnered half of the parliamentary seats in voting earlier
this year – announced it would run the head of its Freedom and Justice Party as
its second officially sanctioned candidate.
Mohamed Morsi joins Khairat
al-Shater, a veteran Brotherhood financier, as the Brotherhood’s nominees
despite the group’s earlier pledge not to run any presidential contenders at
Morsi appears to be the Brotherhood’s “backup” candidate – the
Islamist group wrote on its English-language Twitter account that his candidacy
would be withdrawn if authorities certified Shater as eligible.
Al-Ahram newspaper reported that the uncertainty over Shater’s candidacy stems
from the candidate’s prison record. Shater was serving a seven-year sentence due
to expire in 2015 for money laundering and funding the Brotherhood, which under
former president Hosni Mubarak was banned. He was freed a year ago in the wake
of the popular uprising that pushed out Mubarak after three decades in
Shater must now receive a “redemption” pardon from the military
court in which he was tried, but that could come only 10 years after his
sentencing – in 2018. The candidate could, however, be retried if new evidence
is produced surrounding his case, or the ruling Supreme Council of Armed Forces
could decide to issue an immediate pardon.
Former intelligence chief Omar
Suleiman was one of the candidates filing his official registration Sunday. On
Friday Suleiman publicly reversed his earlier decision not to run, but said he
needed to collect the signatures of 30,000 eligible voters by Sunday’s deadline
in order to participate in the election.
Ecstatic supporters cheered
behind lines of military police as Suleiman arrived at the office of the state
election committee in Cairo. He then handed in his candidacy documents, the
state news agency MENA reported.
The 74-year-old is seen as a known
quantity in Egypt, a source of stability in a country roiled by inter-communal
violence and the surprising performance of Islamists in parliamentary elections.
But Suleiman was a trusted ally of Mubarak and his go-to official on ties with
Israel – two points that many voters view as liabilities.
Egypt’s electoral commission disqualified Hazem Salah Abu Ismail – a
Brotherhood-linked candidate representing the hardline Salafist movement – after
revelations that his mother was a US citizen. Abu Ismail has dismissed the
charges as a “plot” against him, but Salafist groups have already chosen a
replacement in Safwat Hegazy.
The popular television preacher joined the
race on behalf of Al-Gama’a Al- Islamiyya, a formerly banned extremist
organization that the EU and US deem a terrorist group. Hegazy himself was
banned from entering the United Kingdom three years ago for inciting
In 2006 Hegazy issued a fatwa calling for the death of visiting
Israeli officials. Though the edict was later withdrawn, his sermons have since
referred to Israelis as “sons of pigs and apes” and endorsed Kassam rocket fire
on Israeli communities near the Gaza Strip.
In a sermon from last summer
widely circulated on YouTube, Hegazy warned Israel, “Jerusalem belongs to us,
and the whole world belongs to us.”
“Every land upon which Islam has set
foot will return to us,” he said. “The caliphate will return to us, on the
platform of prophecy... We will pray in Jerusalem.”
campaign season starts April 30, with elections beginning in late May. The
latest surveys show former foreign minister Amr Moussa leading the presidential
pack, but those polls were conducted before Suleiman and the Brotherhood
representatives had announced their candidacy.
The victor must steer the
Arab world’s most populous country out of more than a year of precarious
military rule even as the economy languishes and citizens grow impatient for
dividends from an uprising driven by outrage at poverty and
The Brotherhood and other Islamists dominate parliament and a
body drafting a new constitution that could curtail the broad powers Egyptian
presidents enjoyed for decades.
Reuters and Jerusalem Post staff
contributed to this report.