Egypt's army will not propose a candidate in the upcoming presidential election, its military ruler said on Wednesday, denying speculation that it may have in mind a military nominee who could be seen as out of step with a transition to democracy.
Many Egyptians have become suspicious of military intentions as the shift away from decades of autocratic rule has dragged, suspecting it may want to hold onto power from behind the scenes even after handing over day-to-day government.
The army council says it has no such aims. But its failure to outline a clear transition timetable has fuelled doubts.
A parliamentary election starts on November 28, but will take months to complete, while no date has yet been set for the presidential vote. Analysts say a presidential vote may not take place until late 2012 or early 2013.
The official Middle East News Agency (MENA) reported that Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi denied the existence of a candidate for the military establishment in the future presidential election.
Responding to a question about a possible military nominee, MENA quoted Tantawi as saying: We should not waste time discussing rumours.
Egyptian media have speculated about several names that might have military backing, including Omar Suleiman, former intelligence chief and briefly Mubarak's vice president.
CALL TO GO TO POLLS
Tantawi called on Egyptians to vote in the upcoming elections, adding the parliamentary vote had been delayed at the request of political forces to give them more time to organise, according to MENA.
Dozens of new parties have been set up after politics opened up with the toppling in February of Hosni Mubarak, who kept a tight grip on politics. A senior figure in Mubarak's ruling party controlled the committee that approved new parties.
Under the current timetable, Egyptians will elect a parliament which will then choose a committee to draw up a new constitution. Only once that is completed will a presidential vote be held.
Voting for the lower and upper house of parliament starts in November but will not be completed until March, as voting for each house takes place in stages. Parliamentary candidates must submit their nominations between October 12 and 18.
Some presidential candidates have criticised the process as too long, saying the presidential vote should be held even before the constitution is drawn up. They say this is to avoid a long period of military control.
The military council has already changed its initial election law after pressure from political groups who threatened to boycott the vote.
One change was to expand from a half to two thirds the numbers of seats elected according to party lists, reducing the seats offered to individuals.
Mubarak's former allies, many of them local notables who still enjoy clout in their areas, have been spurned by most parties, leaving them with few options to get re-elected to parliament apart from running as independents.