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Disqualifications throw Egypt election into turmoil

The disqualification of several top presidential candidates would redraw Egypt's electoral map just ahead of next month's vote. Candidates say they'll appeal.

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The race for the Egyptian presidency took a dramatic turn on Saturday when the authorities disqualified front-runners, including Hosni Mubarak's spy chief, a Muslim Brotherhood candidate, and a Salafi preacher whose lawyer warned that "a major crisis" was looming.

The presidential election is the climax of a transition to civilian rule being led by the military council that assumed power from Mubarak on Feb. 11, 2011, at the height of the uprising against his three decades in power.

The generals are due to hand power to the elected president on July 1.

The disqualifications add to the drama of a transition punctuated by spasms of violence and now mired in bitter political rivalries between once-banned Islamists, secular-minded reformists, and remnants of the Mubarak order.

Farouk Sultan, head of the presidential election commission, told Reuters a total of 10 of the 23 candidates had been disqualified from the race. They have 48 hours to appeal.

Hazem Salah Abu Ismail, the Salafi, was disqualified because his mother held US citizenship, the state news agency reported, confirming previous reports fiercely denied by the Islamist, who says he is the victim of a plot.

Abu Ismail's lawyer, Nizar Ghorab, told Reuters he expected "a major crisis" in the next few hours.

The Muslim Brotherhood's Khairat al-Shater was also among those disqualified on Saturday. His spokesman said he would challenge the decision.

Omar Suleiman, Mubarak's intelligence chief and vice president in his last days in power, would also appeal, his spokesman said.

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