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Ex-Mubarak aide to run in election

A former strongman of ousted President Hosni Mubarak's regime has announced his presidential candidacy, shaking up an already heated race that is emerging as a contest between two long-time rivals - former regime officials and Islamists who have surged in influence.

Omar Suleiman, one of the most powerful figures of Mubarak's regime, had said earlier this week that he would not run. However he said he changed his mind after hundreds of people rallied in Cairo to support a bid.

The announcement drew outrage from youth activists who spearheaded the popular uprising that toppled Mubarak last year and have since been disappointed by the continued influence of members of his ex-regime.

Liberals and revolutionaries have been largely squeezed out of the presidential race. Some have vowed to boycott the May 23-24 balloting altogether.

"I find it incomprehensible that one of the top figures of the old regime, who should be on trial right now as a criminal, is actually considering running for president," said Mohammad Radwan, who took part in last year's mass protests.

The 75-year-old former general must get 30,000 signatures by Sunday's official filing deadline or the backing of at least 30 parliamentarians in order to run. Mr Suleiman could be the ruling generals' preferred candidate, someone who would try to keep the old political system intact and protect the privileges of the military.

Mr Suleiman, who appeared on television on February 11, 2011 to announce that Mubarak would step down and hand power to the country's military leaders, served as Egypt's intelligence chief for 18 years at a time when the regime was accused of carrying out torture and human rights abuses against dissenters. He also was long-time a confidant of Mubarak.

That makes him suspect in the eyes of many Egyptians, who had hoped to stamp out the old regime altogether and usher in a transition to democracy. A win for Suleiman would largely keep control of Egypt in the hands of the military. Egypt's last four presidents have all been military men.

His decision also was the latest surprise in the first presidential race since Mubarak was ousted after nearly 30 years in power.

Last week, the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's most organised Islamist movement, named its chief strategist and financier Khairat el-Shater as a candidate, reversing an earlier pledge not to participate in the election.

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