By Adom M. Cooper
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East
CAIRO, Egypt–Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, already in control of nearly half of the seats available in parliament, announced that it would field its own presidential candidate. The announcement is a reversal of an earlier decision not to do so and will escalate tensions with the nation’s ruling generals and the group’s secular and progressive critics. The Brotherhood vowed in the wake of the 2011 uprising that resulted in the ouster of Hosni Mubarak that it would not field a presidential candidate so as not to monopolize power.
Its candidate, Khairat al-Shater, is the group’s chief strategist and deputy leader. If he becomes president, he would give the Muslim Brotherhood, a formerly outlawed movement, a strong grip on both the country’s executive and legislative branches. al-Shater is a wealthy businessman, whose exploits extend from computers to furniture, and has previously spent 12 years in prison due to his connection with the Muslim Brotherhood. He was released only after last year’s uprisings began.
Before al-Shater came into the public eye, he spent many years working behind the scenes for the Muslim Brotherhood. In the advent of the uprising, his central role in driving the ideology of the Brotherhood has become much more prevalent since Mubarak has been removed from office. Western officials have expressed desires to meet with him and the International Monetary Fund team, seeking a broad consensus for a $3.2 billion loan deal, met with him for talks.
One Western diplomat described al-Shater as a calm individual who “exuded control” in one meeting but displayed traces of a “bully” in another more heated discussion.
“He needs to have grown a thick skin of self-preservation, given his time in jail.”
Mohamed Badie, the Brotherhood’s leader, shared these words with Reuters concerning the announcement.
“He is a national hero to Egypt. He created an institution from the sweat of his brow and when it was destroyed because he was in competition with the son of the toppled president, he was jailed and injustice done to him.”
The group officially announced its support of al-Shater on Saturday 31 March 2012 and it ended weeks of speculation and confusion among the group’s members. The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt holds the views that Islamic principles should regulate each and every aspect of public and family life. The announcement split the group’s governing Shura council into two sides. One side favoring the selection of a candidate within the group and the other desiring an outside candidate, fearing repercussions from the rest of Egypt.
Mohamed Habib, a former Brotherhood deputy leader, shared these words through his Twitter feed about the division in the group on al-Shater’s selection.
“It is the right of the Brotherhood to field its own candidate but they should know they are losing much of their credibility and expanding the divide between them and rest of Egypt’s national groups.”
The Muslim Brotherhood says that it should form the new cabinet to reflect the parliamentary majority. But the existing constitution gives that power to the military or the newly elected president. The army has refused to back down and defended the performance of its cabinet and the army’s handling of the transition. Secretary-General Mahmoud Hussein cited the refusal to remove the cabinet and referred to “a real threat to the revolution and the democratic transition to an elected civilian government.”
Since the removal of Mubarak, Egypt has been in a state of flux and has shown glimpses of the potential for long-term stability. All of the suffering and lives lost in the demonstrations and protests cannot be forgotten as the country tries to move forward with progressive changes. One can only hope that the Muslim Brotherhood’s decision to go back on its vow is sincerely in the best interests of the people because they are the ones who need the most attention and support.
For more information, please see:
Ahram – Brotherhood Frames Primary Components Of Constitution, Says Party MP – 1 April 2012
Al-Jazeera – Brotherhood To Run For Egypt’s Presidency – 1 April 2012
BBC – Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood Names Presidency Candidate – 1 April 2012
CNN – Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood To Field Presidential Candidate – 1 April 2012
The Guardian – Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood To Field Presidential Candidate – 1 April 2012
Reuters – Brotherhood Presidency Bid Turns Up Heat In Egypt Race – 1 April 2012