CAIRO -- The Muslim Brotherhood's disqualified presidential hopeful Khairat Shater accused Egypt's military leaders Wednesday of interfering in politics and endangering the nation's transition to democracy following last year's overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak.
In a first of its kind incident from a leading Brotherhood official, Shater, the group's biggest financier, openly attacked the ruling Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF), saying that the army is manipulating the elections process to hang on to power after a civilian president takes office in June.
"SCAF is strongly interfering in running elections.... It doesn’t have any real will to achieve a real transition of power," Shater said at a news conference a day after the election commission barred him from next month's presidential vote. "SCAF wants a president from its own men and we are in front of a clear attempt to restore Mubarak's rule in a modified way."
Shater also accused election commission chairman Farouk Sultan of working to serve the interests of the remnants of the Mubarak regime. "On a national level, what happened is a crime by all measures," said Shater. "Sultan is still loyal to Mubarak because it was him [Mubarak] who interfered to appoint him as head of the Constitutional Court."
A prominent figure in Egypt's biggest Islamic movement, Shater was barred from the election because of a politically motivated 2007 conviction brought by the Mubarak government to weaken the Brotherhood. He was released last year after Mubarak was toppled, but the conviction makes him ineligible for running for office for six years, despite a pardon from the army.
The Brotherhood and the more ultraconservative Salafi Islamists have largely cooperated with the army since Mubarak's fall. Islamists control the majority of parliament but strains between them and the military have intensified in recent months over issues including the army's future authority and the drafting of a constitution.
In addition to Shater, former chief of intelligence and vice president Omar Suleiman and ultraconservative Salafi lawyer and preacher Hazem Abu Ismail were among 10 presidential candidates disqualified by the committee Tuesday.
During his news conference, Shater called on Brotherhood supporters to march to Tahrir Square on Friday in a protest to "protect the revolution" from being hijacked. The election is scheduled for May 23 and 24.
Photo: Khairat Shater during a news conference Wednesday in Cairo. Credit: STR/EPA