Egypt's parliament on Thursday approved a law that would ban members of ousted president Hosni Mubarak's regime from standing for public office, in the latest twist to Egypt's political roller coaster.
The law, which still has to be approved by the ruling military council, could see former officials including ex-intelligence chief Omar Suleiman disqualified from standing in a presidential election scheduled for next month.
The amendment to the political activity law "bars any president, vice president, prime minister or leader or (senior member) of the now-dissolved National Democratic Party from exercising political rights for 10 years," the MPs said in a parliamentary session aired live on television.
The law still needs to be ratified by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) which took power after Mubarak was ousted on February 11 last year.
The text applies to Mubarak-era officials who served in the decade prior to the date of his ouster, which would also disqualify Ahmed Shafiq -- the last premier to serve under the longtime strongman.
The contest has pitted the country's powerful and organised Islamist forces against Mubarak-era officials, with only a handful of the 23 candidates representing the secular political forces that were at the frontline of last year's revolt.
Immediately after the uprising, anyone associated with Mubarak kept a low profile for fear of reprisals, but after a year of political upheaval and insecurity some no longer shy away from voicing support for ex-regime members.
Former spymaster Suleiman, who was named vice president by Mubarak during his last weeks in power, insisted his candidacy for the presidency would restore stability.
The former general played down his links with the ousted regime or with the military which has been ruling Egypt in the interim since Mubarak's fall.
"If I was intelligence chief and then vice president for a few days, that doesn't mean I was part of a regime against which the people mounted a revolt," he said in a recent interview.
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The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which took power when Mubarak was ousted, has said it will hand power to civilian rule in June after a new president is elected.
Registration for Egypt's top job closed on Sunday, amid last minute twists and turns that have shaken the political race.
Salafist politician Hazem Abu Ismail, known for his fervent anti-US rhetoric, was said to have a mother who held an American passport, ostensibly barring him and leading to a court case to clear the matter.
On Wednesday, his hopes were raised after a court ordered the interior ministry to issue a certificate this mother did not hold any nationality other than Egyptian, as several thousand supporters cheered outside.
Under the country's electoral law, all candidates for the presidency, their parents and their wives must have only Egyptian citizenship.
But the ruling, hailed as a victory by Abu Ismail's supporters, still leaves his presidential ambitions in limbo.
And the powerful Muslim Brotherhood, which had repeatedly vowed not to field a candidate made a dramatic U-turn late last month and put forward deputy chairman Khairat al-Shater, only to find out later that he too may be disqualified.
Shater -- who was released from prison in March 2011 -- could be banned under a law that says candidates can only stand for the presidency six years after they are released or pardoned.
The Muslim Brotherhood then registered a back-up candidate, Mohammed Mursi, who heads the group's Freedom and Justice Party.
The election commission is to examine candidacy papers later this week before it issues a final list of approved candidates on April 26.
The candidates who have registered also include former Arab League chief Amr Mussa and former Brotherhood member Abdel Moneim Abul Fotouh.