The Muslim Brotherhood's candidate who was disqualified from Egypt's first presidential race since Hosni Mubarak was ousted said on Wednesday his ejection was a crime that showed the ruling army was not serious about handing power to civilians.
Mubarak's regime is still ruling even if names have changed, Khairat al-Shater, a millionaire businessman and top Brotherhood official, said a day after an election committee barred him from the race because of a criminal conviction during Mubarak's rule when the group was banned.
The committee also disqualified a popular ultra-conservative Islamist and Mubarak's former spy chief, Omar Suleiman.
The developments add to the turbulence of a transition to democracy that has been punctuated by spasms of violence and political rivalries between once-banned Islamists, secular-minded reformists and remnants of the Mubarak order that was overthrown in last year's popular uprising.
Shater called for a protest on Friday in Tahrir Square, the focus of the anti-Mubarak uprising, adding to tensions ahead of the first round of the presidential vote on May 23-24.
We are going to head to Tahrir on Friday because the revolution is being hijacked ... We have to wake up because there is an attempt to hijack the revolution, Shater told a news conference.
The military council does not have the serious intention to transfer power, he said.
A military council took control when Mubarak was ousted on February 11 last year and has pledged to hand power to civilians by July 1. All Egypt's presidents for six decades were former senior military officers, and analysts say the army is expected to wield influence behind the scenes for years even after the formal handover.
Winners from the drama include former Arab League chief Amr Moussa and moderate Islamist Abdel Moneim Abol Fotouh. Both have spent longer on the campaign trail than most but were eclipsed by latecomers to the race who were disqualified on Tuesday.
I could be happy about not running for the presidency on a personal level but for the sake of the nation, what happened yesterday is a crime on all scales that is committed against this nation, Shater said.
In his place, the Brotherhood will field Mohamed Mursi, head of its political party who had filed the official paperwork to run just in case Shater was disqualified. Analysts say Mursi does not the political clout of Shater.
(Reporting by Sherine El Madany, Shaimaa Fayed and Ali Abdelatti; Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Alison Williams)