Egypt Ruler Meets Politicians Amid Election Turmoil

Egypt's military ruler will hold talks with political leaders on Sunday after next month's presidential election was thrown into further turmoil with the disqualification of key candidates.

The SCAF has promised to hand power to civilian rule in June after a president has been elected

CAIRO — Egypt's military ruler will hold talks with political leaders on Sunday after next month's presidential election was thrown into further turmoil with the disqualification of key candidates.

Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi will meet the heads of political parties and groups to discuss major developments five weeks ahead of the first presidential election since a popular uprising ousted long-time leader Hosni Mubarak last year, state media reported.

On Saturday, Egypt's election commission said that 10 of the 23 registered presidential candidates had been barred from the race, including ex-spy chief Omar Suleiman, Muslim Brotherhood candidate Khairat El-Shater and popular Salafist politician Hazem Abu Ismail.

Suleiman's registration had infuriated the political forces who were at the forefront of last year's revolt, with many believing that his candidacy was proof that promises of a transition to democracy were merely cosmetic.

Suleiman, Mubarak's intelligence chief for two decades, was briefly appointed Egypt's vice-president but quit the post in February 2011 when Mubarak resigned following weeks of mass protests against his 30-year rule.

Meanwhile secular groups were furious over Shater's candidacy, accusing the Muslim Brotherhood of monopolising politics after dominating parliament and a panel tasked with drafting the constitution.

The powerful Islamist group had repeatedly vowed not to present a member for the top job, but in a dramatic U-turn it put forward Shater, as well as party chairman Mohammed Mursi as a back-up candidate.

Commission official Tarek Abul Atta told AFP on Saturday that Suleiman had been disqualified because he failed to get enough endorsements from 15 provinces as required under the law.

Shater, who was released from prison in March last year, was barred because of a law stating that candidates can only run in elections six years after being released or pardoned, Abul Atta said.

Shater, who was deputy chairman of the Muslim Brotherhood -- banned under Mubarak -- had been in jail on charges of terrorism and money laundering.

Abu Ismail is out of the race because his mother holds another nationality, violating election rules which state that all candidates, their parents and their wives must have only Egyptian citizenship.

The candidates have two days to appeal the commission's decision.

In a statement on Facebook, Shater said "we will continue working through all legal channels."

His campaign argued he could not be disqualified because of an "unjust" conviction under Mubarak, criticising the move as "political, not legal."

The commission will announce the final candidate list on 26 April.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) headed by Tantawi, which took power when Mubarak was ousted, will also examine a law passed by parliament that would ban members of the former regime from standing for office.

If approved, the law could also see Ahmed Shafiq -- Mubarak's last prime minister -- excluded from the race.

The military council will also discuss a recent court ruling suspending an Islamist-dominated panel that was tasked with drafting the country's new constitution.

The SCAF has promised to hand power to civilian rule in June after a president has been elected. Elections are scheduled for May 23 and 24.