CAIRO, (AFP) – Candidates for Egypt’s first presidential election since the ouster of veteran leader Hosni Mubarak can start registering from March 10, a month earlier than expected, the head of the elections committee said on Monday.
“Registration for the presidential election will begin on March 10,” Faruk Sultan said, according to the state-run MENA news agency.
A member of the committee, Abdel Moez Ibrahim, told Al-Ahram newspaper the decision was taken during a meeting with the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) ruling Egypt since Mubarak’s ouster last year.
“The military council, during a meeting this afternoon with the head of the committee and its members, asked that the elections be speeded up and that registration start as soon as possible,” said Ibrahim.
“The only convenient date is March 10, after the Shura council vote,” he said, referring to the upper house of parliament.
MENA also reported that SCAF chief Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi met the committee on Monday to discuss “the legal steps needed to open registration… and insisted on the need to speed up the process.”
Last month, SCAF member Major General Mohsen al-Fanjari said registration for Egypt’s first post-revolution presidential election would start from April 15.
Attempts at bringing forward the date came as renewed clashes Monday in central Cairo between police and protesters angry at last week’s deadly football violence left one person dead.
Activists, unhappy with the rule of SCAF, have repeatedly demanded that the military hand over power quickly to a civilian government.
Fanjari said on January 16 that the registration is part of a roadmap drawn up by the SCAF for the presidential election to take place by June.
Tantawi pledged in November that the military will hand over power to civilian rule after the election.
Frontrunners in the presidential race include former Arab League chief Amr Mussa, a veteran Egyptian diplomat who was foreign minister under Mubarak, as well as Abdel Moneim Abul Fotuh, a former member of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Nobel Prize laureate and ex-head of the UN atomic watchdog Mohamed ElBaradei decided in January to drop out of the race, complaining of a lack of democracy in Egypt despite Mubarak’s ouster in a popular uprising last year.
Other candidates include Ahmad Shafiq, the last prime minister to serve under Mubarak, as well as Salafist leader Hazem Salah Abu Ismail, Nasserite head Hamdeen Sabahi and Islamist independent figure Salim al-Awwa.
Egypt’s powerful Muslim Brotherhood, whose Freedom and Justice Party scored a crushing victory in parliamentary elections, have said they will announce a consensus candidate for the presidential poll.
Once elections for the upper house are concluded in February, parliament will choose a 100-member panel to draft a new constitution, followed by the presidential election under the timetable set by Egypt’s military rulers.
But there is a widespread belief that the SCAF will attempt to retain some sort of power after the transition.
The military has been the backbone of Egyptian politics ever since the fall of the monarchy in 1952, and every president since has emerged from the top ranks of the armed forces.