Egypt's election commission disqualified 10 presidential hopefuls, including Hosni Mubarak's former spy chief and fundamentalist Islamists, from running today in a surprise decision that left a field of moderates in the race for the country's first post-revolutionary leader. The elimination of the three most powerful and controversial candidates could go in two directions with just weeks to go before the vote, observers said. It could plunge the Arab world's most populous nation into a new political crisis, or just the opposite, defuse it.
Farouk Sultan, the head of the Supreme Presidential Election Commission that was appointed by Egypt's military rulers to oversee the vote, said that those barred from the contest included Mubarak-era strongman Omar Suleiman, Muslim Brotherhood chief strategist Khairat el-Shater, and hard-line Islamist Hazem Abu Ismail. He did not give reasons. Disqualified candidates have 48 hours to appeal the decision, according to election rules. The final list of candidates will be announced on April 26.