Egypt announces list of presidential candidates

Egypt's electoral committee announced on Thursday the list of 13 candidates for next month's first post-uprising presidential poll after a tumultuous run-up that saw three leading candidates disqualified.

Ahmed Shafiq, the premier appointed by president Hosni Mubarak just before his overthrow last year, was included after the committee reversed on Wednesday an early decision to exclude him.

The candidates include front runners Amr Mussa, a former foreign minister and Arab League chief, and the powerful Muslim Brotherhood's Mohammed Morsi, who filled in for the group's disqualified first pick, Khairat El Shater.

Campaigning for the May 23-24 election begins on April 30, committee head Faruq Sultan told a press conference.

The vote, which the ruling military has promised will be free, should mark the country's first fair presidential elections after three decades of Hosni Mubarak's autocratic rule.

The military has pledged to hand power to the winner by the end of June.

The contest is narrowing down to a choice between secularists linked to the old guard -- such as Mussa and Shafiq -- and Islamists, who hope to repeat their success in parliamentary elections after Mubarak's ouster.

Earlier this month, the committee excluded two heavy-weight candidates, the Muslim Brotherhood's Shater, and Omar Suleiman, a former spy chief who also served as Mubarak's vice president in his regime's last days.

Committee official Hatem Bagato told the press conference Shater was excluded because of a military court conviction, and Suleiman because he did not gather the required endorsements from voters in every provinces.

Suleiman's bid provoked outrage from the Islamists and liberal and leftwing groups that spearheaded the uprising, prompting parliament to pass a law barring senior former regime officials from the poll.

The election committee excluded Shafiq after the military ratified the law, but reversed its decision after Shafiq appealed.

It also excluded popular hardline Islamist Hazem Abu Ismail, because his mother was a dual US-Egyptian citizen. The law requires that both of the candidate's parents be only Egyptian.

Final candidates include Hamdeen Sabahi, a leftwing pan-Arabist, and Abdel Moneim Abul Fotouh, a moderate Islamist who was expelled from the Muslim Brotherhood because he nominated himself when the movement had decided not to contest the election.

The powerful group, whose political arm dominates parliament and the senate, later decided to field a candidate after it failed to persuade the military to sack the cabinet and appoint a Brotherhood-led one in its place.

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