Egypt's election committee has refused the appeals of three top presidential candidates to return to the race, after ousting them and seven others over the weekend, the Associated Press reported.
The candidates — Mubarak-era strongman Omar Suleiman, Muslim Brotherhood chief strategist Khairat el-Shater and lawyer turned hard-line Islamist preacher Hazem Abu Ismail — were three of the 10 candidates disqualified on Saturday night in an announcement from the High Presidential Election Committee, msnbc.com reported.
They were given 48 hours to appeal the decision, which all three candidates did. The committee refused their appeals on Tuesday, according to the AP.
"I am totally confused," Mahmoud Ezz, a mechanical engineer in Cairo, told msnbc.com. "There are some legal issues for Suleiman but why did they eliminate el-Shater? They must state their reasons."
Suleiman was disqualified because he fell just 31 short of the 30,000 notarized statements of endorsement required to enter the race, the New York Times reported; el-Shater because of a previous criminal conviction; and Abu Ismail because his mother held American citizenship briefly before she died, according to the AP.
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A spokesman for el-Shater's campaign said the ban was "very dangerous" and that it gave the impression that "there was no revolution in Egypt," the Guardian reported.
"If Shater is barred permanently then we will support our other candidate Mohamed Morsi in the same manner we would have supported Shater," said Mahmoud Helmy, an MP from the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice party, according to the Guardian.
The country's turbulent presidential elections are being overseen by a council of generals who took over from Mubarak. They have promised to hand over power after a president is elected at the polls May 23 and 24, the AP reported.
The three disqualified candidates were some of the election's front-runners, and have cleared the way for new favorites: former foreign minister Amr Moussa, moderate Islamist Abdel-Moneim Abolfotoh, and the Brotherhood’s backup candidate Morsi are all seen to be top contenders, according to the AP.
“Our concern is that we want to see a fair and transparent process moving forward and a successful election and handover of power to a civilian government along the time frame that the (military council) has already laid out,” US State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters on Tuesday.