Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court said Sunday the nominating period for presidential candidates will open March 10 and last four weeks, but stopped short of announcing a date for the election.
Farouq Sultan, the head of the court committee overseeing the vote, told reporters that a decision is expected soon on when Egypt will hold presidential elections, adding that balloting will take place over one or two days. But he said the announcement of the winner _ even from a potential run-off _ would be declared by the end of June, which would suggest the vote could be held no later than early June.
The timing of the presidential elections has been a highly divisive issue in Egypt. Activists who have been critical of the military's handling of the country's transition to democracy want the ruling generals to hold the elections earlier than June and hand over power to a civilian administration immediately. However, the military rulers still have the support of a broad spectrum of the Egyptian public who see them as the only viable leaders able to run the country until a president is elected.
Several leading figures already have expressed an interest in running for president.
Ex-Arab League chief Amr Moussa, a former foreign minister under Mubarak and a popular figure, has already begun campaigning, as has Ahmed Shafiq, a former air force pilot who served as prime minister at the height of the anti-Mubarak protests. He would likely be looked on favorably by the generals.
Mohammed Salim El Awa, a lawyer who has written a book on the concept of Islam and governance, is also expected to submit his nomination.
Among Egypt's Islamists, there is Abdel-Moneim Aboul-Fotouh, a longtime liberal within the Muslim Brotherhood who has gained support among the pro-revolution crowd. He was expelled from the group because he declared his intention to run for president after the Brotherhood said it would not field a candidate. There is also Hazem Abu Ismail, who draws his core support from the ultraconservative Salafis, who form the second largest bloc in parliament after the Brotherhood.
The most notable absence from the field is Nobel laureate and former U.N. nuclear watchdog chief Mohamed ElBaradei. He withdrew from the race last month, saying a fair election would be impossible under the military's grip. He said the election would likely not bring a real end to the generals' rule.
Many activists believe the military wants to ensure the race produces a president who will support its interests and allow it to have a strong voice in politics even after it formally steps aside. Egypt's last four presidents have come from within the top ranks of the military, ensuring that for decades the army remained untouchable. The military has already tried to prevent or limit civilian oversight of its budget under the future system.
According to a referendum supported last year by a majority of Egyptian voters, eligible candidates must not have held dual nationality, must not be married to a foreigner and must be at least 40 years old. Egyptian-born candidates will also need 30,000 signatures or the backing of at least 30 lawmakers. The military decreed the results as law.
Parliament said Sunday that it will review all of the laws decreed by the military council. Some lawmakers were angered that the presidential law was issued just days before the new parliament convened for the first time last month.
Separately, Arizona Sen. Jon McCain arrived in Cairo Sunday evening, a day after Egypt set a trial date of Feb. 26 for 16 Americans and 27 others in a case against foreign-funded pro-democracy groups that has badly shaken ties with Washington. McCain chairs the International Republican Institute, which is one of four U.S.-based groups under investigation. American officials have threatened to cut $1.5 billion in aid over the spat, most of which is allocated to the Egyptian army. The senator, who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, is expected to meet with Egypt's top military rulers during his visit.