The already confused race for president in Egypt just got a lot messier. The Supreme Election Commission has ruled that the top three candidates were ineligible to run in the elections next month.
The ousted candidates include former Mubarak vice president and head of intelligence Omar Suleiman; Muslim Brotherhood party official Khairat al-Shater; and the radical Salfis TV preacher Hazem Salah Aboul Ismail. The Muslim Brotherhood, in anticipation that al-Shater might be barred from running, is fielding a second candidate, Mohammed Morsi. He is not as well known as al-Shater and this has dimmed prospects for an Islamist victory.
Suleiman didn't get the required number of endorsements, al-Shater was convicted of a crime during the Mubarak years, and Abu Ismail's mother was briefly an American citizen before she died in 2010. All of these issues were grounds for disqualification.
But the Wall Street Journal reports there's trouble a-brewing in the Egyptian street:
The announcement threatens to launch a renewed round of instability only a month before Egypt's first post-revolutionary presidential elections and little more than two months before the military has promised to hand over power to an elected civilian president.
"This is a purely political decision," said Mourad Mohamed Ali, the head of Mr. Shater's presidential campaign. Mr. Ali said the decision was directed by Egypt's interim military leadership who he said were working to undermine Egypt's revolution and reconstitute the ousted regime of former President Hosni Mubarak.
"It's not about whether Shater will be able to go for the election or not. We are talking about human rights. We are talking about legitimacy. We are talking about the direction of Egypt," he said.
Yet Mr. Suleiman's exclusion, alongside hardline Islamists such as Mr. Shater and Mr. Abu Ismail, complicates perceived notions that the election commission's decision was a purely political gesture aimed at checking the rise of Islamist politicians.
Since Mr. Suleiman announced his participation in the race last week, furious Islamist and liberal activists alike have maligned him as an extension of the military regime. The rumors became so pervasive that the normally tight-lipped intelligence services announced on Saturday that they were not supporting or campaigning on Mr. Suleiman's behalf.
None of the three candidates have conceded despite there being no recourse within the law to seek redress. As a result, there will be a massive demonstration on Friday after prayers in Tahrir Square. Islamists, secularists, and revolutionaries will put aside their differences for a day and unite in opposition to the military.
It is possible that one or all of the candidates will be reinstated. Such is the rule of law in Egypt.