Enrichment process

Egyptian presidential race (and chances of democracy) get narrower

The banning of (at this stage) ten candidates for Egypt’s parliamentary elections sends some worrying signals about the mechanisms for democracy in the Arab world’s most populated nation.

Some candidates have been banned for old criminal convictions, some on registration technicalities and one because his mother holds American citizenship. The culling of the candidate list has affected all sides of the political spectrum, with Mubarak cronies and hard-core Islamists alike sent for an early shower.

But despite having its number one candidate scrubbed, the Muslim Brotherhood looks to have firmed in the running to take out the Presidency. This is because the group entered a back-up candidate when controversy started surfacing about their original choice, Khairat al-Shater. He was one of those scratched for a criminal past, though he disputes the case that was brought against him under the old regime and regarding his dissident politics.

With other favourites now facing a round of appeals to be re-instated, the Brotherhood’s second pick, Mohammed Morsi, has time to build his campaign.

The fact that the Brotherhood is running for the Presidency at all is also something of a recent shock development. They had originally pledged to keep out of the race, preferring to focus on the parliamentary level of government (via the Freedom and Justice Party wing). The possibility that they will now control the Egyptian legislature and executive conjures uneasy fears about a circle of self-perpetuating rule and the marginalisation of opponents.

Indeed at this stage the new constitution hasn’t even been written, meaning the relationship between president and parliament is still open to speculation.

The disqualifications will likely result in a wave of public protests in an already tense environment and will no doubt further drive wedges between different groups within the country. Meanwhile the armed forces keep a firm hand on the reins of power.

Can the Egyptian Spring mature into a lazy summer or will it go directly to a winter of discontent?