Egypt’s parliament approved an amendment on Thursday to a law that would ban members of ousted president Hosni Mubarak’s regime from standing for public office.
The legislation will ban a move which could derail former Vice President Omar Suleiman’s attempt to become head of state.
But the measure however would need to be approved by Egypt’s ruling military and in a signal of the military council’s likely response, a minister in the army-appointed cabinet called the new law “a deviation” that targeted one or two people.
The military generals have yet to speak publicly on the issue, but they are not likely to ratify or reject the bill before the election commission issues a final list of presidential candidates, which is expected later this month.
Decisions of the election commission cannot be appealed.
The amendment to the political activity law “bars any president, vice president, prime minister or leader or (senior member) of the now-dissolved National Democratic Party from exercising political rights for 10 years,” the MPs said in a parliamentary session aired live on television
The legislation would also block the candidacy of anyone who served as a prime minister in the decade prior to Mubarak’s removal from power. That would also rule out Ahmed Shafiq, who is also running.
However, it did not cover former ministers, meaning it would not affect leading liberal contender Amr Moussa, Mubarak’s foreign minister for a decade until 2001.
Registration for Egypt’s top job closed on Sunday, amid last minute twists and turns that have shaken the political race.
Head of the Egyptian Complains and Proposals Committee, Talaat Marzouk, told Al Arabiya earlier this week that the new article will be added to a decree-law issued by the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces last year.
The addition, Marzouk said, would clearly ban Suleiman, Shafiq and other senior figures of the former regime from occupying senior public posts for 10 years.
“The Article we have agreed to add to the existing law states: Anyone who worked during the five years preceding the resignation of former president on Feb.11, 2011 in any leadership job in the institution of the presidency or of the government or was a member of the People’s Assembly or of the Shura Council representing the dissolved National Party or was appointed in any of those by the resigned president cannot be admitted to run for president of the republic or work as a vice president or prime minister or a minister for a period of 10 years starting from the date of former president’s resignation,” Marzouk told Al Arabiya.
The electoral commission has said 23 people have registered to run for the presidential elections. The commission will examine each applicant’s documents and announce the final list of approved candidates on April 25.
Suleiman said in comments published Thursday that he decided to run for president to prevent Islamists from turning Egypt into a “religious state,” and warned that the country would be internationally isolated if one of them won the presidency.
Omar Suleiman’s comments in a weekly newspaper interview came just hours before the Islamist-dominated parliament passed a bill that strips senior figures of the Mubarak regime of their political rights for 10 years. The bill was hurriedly put together this week in hopes of preventing Suleiman, who briefly served as Mubarak’s vice president, from running for president.
The presidential election gets under way on May 23 with two days of voting expected to be followed in June with a run-off between the top two candidates.
The field is broadly made up of Islamists, officials who served under Mubarak and independent leftists and liberals.
The legislation approved on Thursday was a direct response to the last-minute decision by Suleiman to seek the presidency, a step which both Islamists and secular-minded reformists alike see as a threat to their hopes for democratic reform.
The Muslim Brotherhood, which controls nearly half the seats in parliament, was outlawed under Mubarak.
Khairat al-Shater, the Muslim Brotherhood’s presidential candidate, has said Suleiman’s candidacy is an insult to Egyptians who rose up against Mubarak. The Brotherhood has called a protest on Friday in response.
Suleiman has said he will win support among Egyptians who he believes are angered at attempts by the Muslim Brotherhood to dominate the post-Mubarak era.
The military council has been governing with Mubarak’s presidential powers since it took control of the country. That means parliament has only limited authority, though the chamber was elected in Egypt’s most democratic election in six decades.