Saturday, December 16, 2017

Former general joins president's race in Egypt

CAIRO — A former deputy of ousted President Hosni Mubarak announced his presidential candidacy Friday, shaking up an already heated race that is emerging as a contest between two longtime rivals — former regime officials and Islamists who have surged in influence.

Omar Suleiman, one of the most powerful figures of Mubarak's regime, had said earlier this week that he would not run. But he said he changed his mind after hundreds of people rallied in Cairo to support a bid.

The announcement drew outrage from youth activists who spearheaded the popular uprising that toppled Mubarak last year and have since been disappointed by the continued influence of members of his ex-regime. Liberals and revolutionaries have been largely squeezed out of the presidential race. Some have vowed to boycott the May 23-24 balloting altogether.

The 75-year-old former general must get 30,000 signatures by Sunday's official filing deadline or the backing of at least 30 parliamentarians in order to run.

Suleiman served as Egypt's intelligence chief for 18 years at a time when the regime was accused of carrying out torture and human rights abuses.

A win for Suleiman would largely keep control of Egypt in the hands of the military. Egypt's last four presidents have all been military men.

Last week, the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's most organized Islamist movement, named its chief strategist and financier, Khairat el-Shater, as a candidate. The long-outlawed Brotherhood already controls about half of the seats in parliament and would completely dominate the political arena if el-Shater wins.

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