The head of Egypt's election commission has announced that 10 presidential hopefuls, including the country's ex-spy chief and other key candidates, have been disqualified from contesting.
Farouk Sultan, head of the Supreme Presidential Election Commission, said on Saturday that that 10 of the 23 registered candidates had been barred from the race, including Hosni Mubarak's former spy chief Omar Suleiman, Muslim Brotherhood chief strategist Khairat el-Shater and lawyer-turned-preacher Hazem Abu Ismail.
The presidential elections are expected to happen on the 23-24 May.
Tarek Abul Atta, a commission official, said that Suleiman had been disqualified because he failed to get enough endorsements from 15 provinces as required under the law.
Shater, who was released from prison in March last year, was barred because of a law stating that candidates can only run in elections six years after being released or pardoned, Abul Atta said.
Abu Ismail is out of the race because his mother holds another nationality, violating election rules which state that all candidates, their parents, and their wives must have only Egyptian citizenship.
According to election rules, candidates who have been disqualified can appeal the decision within 48 hours.
A council of military generals has been governing Egypt since Mubarak was swept from power a year ago in a popular uprising against his rule.
Abu Ismail followers have held several demonstrations to warn against any move to disqualify their candidate.
On Friday they besieged the headquarters of the election commission, forcing it to evacuate the premises.
Abu Ismail's lawyer attacked the decision to disqualify the ultra-conservative Salafi and others from the race on Saturday, saying he expected a "major crisis".
"The man heading this committee has never been independent. This elimination was dictated to him and he is working under the guidance of the military council," Nizar Ghorab told Reuters, referring to the head of Egypt's election commission.
"I expect a major crisis to happen in the next few hours," he said.
A spokesman for the Shater campaign said their candidate had already prepared his appeal.
"We will not give up our right to enter the presidential race," said Murad Muhammed Ali.
"There is an attempt by the old Mubarak regime to hijack the last stage of this transitional period and reproduce the old system of governance."
Suleiman, appointed deputy president by Mubarak in his last days in power, entered the presidential race at last moment, triggering both concern and heavy criticism from reformists who see him as a symbol of Mubarak's rule and a danger to democracy.
Hussein Kamal, a top Suleiman aide, told Reuters his campaign would also challenge the commission's decision.
"Omar Suleiman will take legal route to challenge this decision to exclude him from the presidential race," he said.
Nader Omran, from the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, said that the party will appeal the decision made to disqualify Shater.
"We feel this is a political decision rather than a legal one, and we will appeal it," he said.
The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) headed by Tantawi, which took power when Mubarak was ousted, will also examine a law passed by parliament that would ban members of the former regime from standing for office.
If approved, the law could also see Ahmed Shafiq, Mubarak's last prime minister, excluded from the race.
The military council will also discuss a recent court ruling suspending an Islamist-dominated panel that was tasked with drafting the country's new constitution.
The SCAF has promised to hand power to civilian rule in June after a president has been elected.
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