CAIRO - An Egyptian court has banned leaders of ousted president Hosni Mubarak's party from taking part in future elections, a day after presidential frontrunner Abdel Fattah el Sissi said the Muslim Brotherhood will not exist if he wins.
Under the Egyptian Court of Urgent Matters ruling, officials of the National Democratic Party would be barred from running in presidential, local or parliamentary elections set for later this year.
The court left unclear how many former NDP members would be affected. None are running in this month’s presidential vote, a two-man race that former defense minister Abdel Fattah el Sissi is expected to win.
The NDP was dissolved after Mubarak’s ouster, but its former members nonetheless remain part of a political elite and retain considerable economic clout. The constitution adopted earlier this year did not prove any barrier to their taking part in elections.
The main challenge to a Sissi presidency is the Muslim Brotherhood, the movement behind former president Mohamed Morsi who Sissi helped oust last year.
Sissi dismissed the Muslim Brotherhood in a televised interview Monday, responding "yes, that is right," when asked whether the Brotherhood would cease to exist during his presidency.
His comments appeared to dash the hopes of Egypt’s remaining proponents of a post-election political reconciliation.
The Brotherhood has already been banned, labeled a terrorist organization, and thousands of its followers either killed or imprisoned.
Smaller, democratic forces have already felt the closing political sphere. Late last month, the April 6 Movement, a key player in the 2011 uprising against Mubarak, was also banned.
Sissi’s approval rating is touted as more than 80 percent, with his supporters saying his strong stance offers Egypt its only hope of regaining stability. But with his only opponent in the race garnering single digit support, analysts and opponents are asking whether political restrictions only risk a bigger backlash.