Egypt presidentials: Suleiman in, Abu Ismail out?
Egypt's presidential election will be on May 23rd and already things are out of control. Not only did deputy head of the Muslim Brotherhood Khairat El Shater suddenly enter the race this week -- reversing a pledge on the group's part that they wouldn't field a member, creating a fair amount of internal disagreement and showing his hand as the group's real boss...
But creepy Mubarak spy-master Omar Suleiman has also apparently just announced he will join the race! Suleiman was appointed Mubarak's vice-president and heir apparent during the uprising and you can see him here, sulkily announcing his boss' (and his own) resignation. Suleiman as Egypt's next president would really be ten times worse than a slap in the face to the revolution (it'd be more like a foot endlessly stomping on the face of the revolution...) That said, I'm surprised by news stories calling him a "front-runner." in a recent Al Ahram poll, he had 10% of the vote. While he can count on the police and intelligence communities, reactionaries and morons in search of "an iron fist," I think a majority of the country would never vote for him. They'd have to rig it to get him in.
Finallly, I was at a rally in Tahrir Square this afternoon by supporters and sympathizers of presidential hopeful Hazem Salah Abu Ismail, who is embroiled in a weird scandal over whether his mother might have become a US citizen in the last years of her life (thus barring him from running according to a recently expanded xenophobic law). Abu Ismail is a charismatic Salafist with the usual ultra-conservative social and religious views, a vague populist platform and an anti-authoritarian streak (he supported the revolution from the start and has been very critical of the military leadership).
Abu Ismail likes to score points by criticizing the West, so there's been quite a bit of schadenfreude in liberal circles over his embarrassing American connections. Then again, I met some at the rally who said they came out because they think Abu Ismail's disqualification would be just the first step in rigging the election. Not that any of this has seemingly led the public in Egypt to question the stupid law banning presidential candidates' parents and grandparents from holding foreign nationalities, or the way any foreign connection continues to be used as a political smear. In fact, Abu Ismail's supporters believe he is being set up by the SCAF, the Americans and Israel, of course. It's true that he is probably all three's least favourite candidate.
Abu Ismail supporters were sporting all sorts of pins, posters, T-shirts etc. But the weirdest thing had to be the very popular Abu Ismail masks.