Authorities in Egypt disqualify three leading presidential candidates
Three of the top candidates for president in the upcoming elections have been disqualified from running by the election commission.
The disqualifications add to the drama of a transition punctuated by spasms of violence and now mired in bitter political rivalries between once-banned Islamists, secular-minded reformists, and remnants of the Mubarak order.
Farouk Sultan, head of the presidential election commission, told Reuters a total of 10 of the 23 candidates had been disqualified from the race. They have 48 hours to appeal.
Hazem Salah Abu Ismail, the Salafi, was disqualified because his mother held US citizenship, the state news agency reported, confirming previous reports fiercely denied by the Islamist, who says he is the victim of a plot.
Abu Ismail's lawyer, Nizar Ghorab, told Reuters he expected "a major crisis" in the next few hours.
The Muslim Brotherhood's Khairat al-Shater was also among those disqualified on Saturday. His spokesman said he would challenge the decision.
Omar Suleiman, Mubarak's intelligence chief and vice president in his last days in power, would also appeal, his spokesman said.
The elimination of three of the top candidates in what is being billed a Egypt's first real presidential vote would redraw the electoral map just a few weeks before the vote gets under way in May. The election is expected to go to a June runoff between the top two candidates.
Other front-runners include Amr Moussa, a former Arab League secretary-general and Egyptian foreign minister, and Abdul Moneim Abol Fotouh, who was expelled from the Brotherhood last year when he decided to mount his own presidential campaign.
Abu Ismail is the most hard-line of the Islamists running for the post. On Friday, his supporters besieged the headquarters of the election commission, forcing it to evacuate the premises and suspend its work. The building was guarded by security forces with riot shields.
The Brotherhood candidate will most likely be reinstated given that the reason for his disqualification was that he was arrested during Mubarak's years in power. But the Salafi candidate and Suleiman - Mubarak's former secret police chief - are not likely to be on the ballot.
Moussa has excellent name recognition and is well thought of by most Egyptians. But Fotouh has captivated the street and will almost certainly be in the run-off election following the first round in June.