Egypt's transition continues to surprise and confuse, as the military council bring forward the election date to 23 May to defuse public opposition at the slow pace of reform, while Egypt's administrative court suspends a committee charged with drafting a new constitution, meaning Egyptians will elect a president before the country has ratified a new charter.
In effect, the new president will thus have the same constitutional powers as those enjoyed by Hosni Mubarak. However, the court's injunction is preliminary pending a fuller hearing.
The injunction to suspend the 100-member assembly, appointed last month, was made on the basis that women, young people and minorities were underrepresented. The Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, which along with the Nour party was dominant in the assembly, said it would appeal against the court's decision.
The Muslim Brotherhood have now opted to field their own presidential candidate, Khairat el-Shater. Initially the group, which had been underground for years due to persecution from the Mubarak government, had advocated a stronger parliament and weaker presidency, and sought parliamentary roles for its candidates. The increasing likelihood that the constitutional assembly would fail to complete its work before the election motivated the Brotherhood last week to break its pledge.
Soon after announcing his candidacy, el-Shater stated the Muslim Brotherhood would not accept a loan from the International Monetary Fund unless the loan terms were changed or a new government was formed to monitor the loan's spending, both unlikely conditions. Whoever takes power in Egypt will be faced with uncomfortable economic decisions, including the need to impose unpopular taxes and cut government spending and subsidies as the country seeks to correct its enormous balance of payments deficits.
Other candidates in the running include Omar Suleiman, the spy chief of Mr Mubarak with historical ties to the secret police. To deflect criticism that he was a collaborator with the old guard, Mr Suleiman informed state-owned newspaper Al-Akhbar that the toppling of the Mubarak government had delivered an irreversible "new reality". He has pledged to prioritise security if he wins the presidency, and would then focus on economic rejuvenation, social justice and reinforcing freedom.
By Adam Robert Green
Source: All Africa