The Muslim Brotherhood: Plotting for a President

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Members of Parliament are seen after Egypt's SCAF-appointed Prime Minister Kamal al-Ganzouri's speech at parliament in Cairo 26 February 2012. (Photo: REUTERS - Amr Abdallah Dalsh)

By: Rana Mamdouh

Published Thursday, March 1, 2012

Despite becoming the leading political party in ُEgypt's parliament, the Muslim Brotherhood has yet to field a presidential candidate while seemingly opting for a consensus one in a move reminiscent of former ruling party tactics.

The first round of the presidential election in Egypt since the fall of Hosni Mubarak will be held on May 23 and 24 and a possible second round on June 16 and 17.

Nominations for candidacy are scheduled to begin on March 10 and Islamist forces are working hard to reach an agreement on a presidential candidate they can support.

The Muslim Brotherhood (MB) announced that it will not put forth its own candidate for the presidency.

As a matter of fact, in the past it expelled one of its leading members, Abdel Moneim Abul Fotouh, because he announced that he would be running for president.

Nevertheless, the MB is seeking a candidate they can trust to throw their support behind him.

Even though there are currently three Islamist candidates running for president – Abul Fotouh, Mohammad Salim al-Awa, and Hazem Salah Abu Ismail – the MB is not considering any of them.

Instead, the organization is seeking a candidate who is able to fulfill the MB’s demands, and would not deviate from their objectives.

That is what Mahmoud Ghazlan, a MB spokesperson, has repeated again and again: “The Brotherhood is looking for a presidential nominee from outside the list of names that have already announced their candidacy.”

Unlike other Islamist parties, the MB does not demand that the next president be a member of an Islamist movement or organization.

However, according to a statement by Mustafa al-Ghunaimy, a member of the MB’s Guidance Bureau, the organization does not want the next president of Egypt to be a secular or anti-religious person.

That is why the MB is trying to convince the Arab League’s Secretary-General, Nabil al-Arabi, to run for president as a “consensus candidate.”

The Brotherhood’s suggestion of a consensus candidate, instead of having elections based on equal opportunity for all candidates, has raised the ire of many observers who say the MB’s conduct is reminiscent of the former ruling National Democratic Party before the revolution.

Critics say the MB is behaving as if they have a mandate from the people because of their parliamentary majority and that is unacceptable.
Al-Arabi, for his part, has categorically denied any intention to run for president. But the Brotherhood has continued in its mission to find a candidate.

It suggested that judge Tarek el-Bishry, head of the Egyptian Constitutional Review Committee, run because he would be accepted by a large cross section of Egyptians. But he too refused.

Al-Gunaimy, however, maintains that the MB has not given up and is still trying to find a candidate.

“We are extremely pre-occupied with the presidential elections. We discuss the issue at every meeting of the Guidance Bureau and with the Freedom and Justice Party (the political arm of the MB), but we have not made a decision yet,” he said.

The Salafi movement too has not made a final decision, but most of its MPs have decided to support the Salafi candidate Hazem Abu Ismail. Three Salafi parties out of seven also announced their support for Abu Ismail.

The Islamic Legitimate Body of Rights and Reformation, a self-described centrist Islamist organization, identified three criteria for selecting Egypt’s next president.

The first of these criteria concerns Sharia law. According to this group, the candidate who does not announce his affiliation with Islamic law – his allegiance to it and his commitment to establish it – lacks a basic quality for leadership.

The second of these criteria is to be a Muslim, and the third is to be independent and not subordinate to the West.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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