Thousands of Islamists demonstrated in Egypt on Friday to demand that members of ousted president Hosni Mubarak’s regime be barred from standing in next month’s presidential election.
They gathered in an upbeat mood in the capital’s iconic Tahrir Square, symbol of the popular protest movement that led to last year’s downfall of Mubarak, amid chants of “No to leftovers from the old regime!”
“We don’t want Omar Suleiman!” they cried, referring to Mubaak’s former intelligence chief who was also briefly vice president, and who had sought to make a return to political life as a candidate in the May 23-24 election.
Friday’s demonstration came a day after the Islamist-dominated parliament approved a law that would ban former regime members from standing for public office.
The law, which still has to be approved by the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), could see former officials such as Suleiman disqualified.
The SCAF, which took over when Mubarak stood down on February 11, 2011, is widely seen as backing Suleiman’s candidacy for president.
“The people want to bring down the military!” protesters chanted on Friday after the SCAF on Thursday insisted it “does not back any of the presidential candidates.”
Mubarak’s last premier Ahmed Shafiq, as well as former Arab League chief and long-time foreign minister Amr Mussa, are also candidates in next month’s poll for the top job and would be disqualified if the new law is ratified.
“No to Shafiq, no to Suleiman — we will return to Tahrir!” the demonstrators warned.
Khairat El-Shater, presidential candidate for the powerful Muslim Brotherhood, has denounced Suleiman’s attempt to make a political comeback, likening it to an attempt “to steal the revolution” and warned it could spark huge street protests.
Friday’s demonstration was called by the Brotherhood, now Egypt’s main political force, and more hardline Salafist groups in statements on their websites demanding the “protection of the revolution.”
It was staged in a relaxed atmosphere with many women and children present as demonstrators poured into the square from across the city.
Liberal and secular groups also do not wish to see the return of Mubarak-era figures, but they stayed away from Friday’s protest.
They have instead called a demonstration on April 20 to denounce what they see as Islamist monopolisation of political life in the country since the revolt.