Egypt: El-Shater Nomination Shatters Brotherhood Pledge

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An Egyptian woman walks in front of a wall sprayed with graffiti depicting images of the martyrs of the Egypt revolution at Mohamed Mahmoud street, which leads to the Interior Ministry, where clashes between protesters and security forces took place during the revolution in downtown Cairo 1 April 2012. (Photo: REUTERS - Amr Abdallah Dalsh)

By: Bisan Kassab

Published Monday, April 2, 2012

The Muslim Brotherhood, which has its sight set on the Egyptian presidency, is alienating allies and friends after reneging on its promise of not running for the coveted position.

“El-Shater is tripping; He wants to be president,” was the chant repeated by hundreds of demonstrators protesting against the Egypt’s Constitutional Assembly.

It was days before the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) officially announced the nomination of its Deputy Chairman, Khairat el-Shater, for the presidency. Objections by MB youth, or rather a significant group of them, took on a different tone, more in line with MB mannerisms so to speak.

The youth group “A Brotherhood Cry” issued a statement hours after el-Shater’s nomination. The title was adapted from the Quranic verse: “And fulfill the covenant of God when you have taken it.” It alluded to the MB’s promise not to nominate any of its members for the the presidential race.

The statement said that nominating a MB member for the presidency will break-up the voting bloc that supports candidates affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood-led alliance.

It also warned against “dismantling the national project, isolating the MB politically and socially, putting the organization in confrontation with all the other forces, weakening its position in the case of a disagreement with the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), and destroying its relationship with other national Egyptian forces.”

The statement pointed to the recent experience of forming the Constituent Assembly as an example. It also included a warning by the MB youth against “damaging the unity, cohesion, and principled commitment inside the organization.”

This sheds new light on the possibility of new splits by some MB youth similar to those that took place after the revolution.

The most famous example was when a number of MB youth decided to support and advocate for presidential candidate Abdel Moneim Abul Fotouh, a former MB leader, despite the organization’s initial decision not to field any presidential candidates.

The case of Osama Gamal Abdel Hadi, one of the leaders of “A Brotherhood Cry,” is also an example of such splits. He resigned from the MB in February 2011 to protest the dominance of politics at the expense of “religious preaching,” as he told Al-Akhbar.

The young MB leader said that his group is objecting to el-Shater’s nomination because it did not take public opinion within the MB into account.

“A poll was conducted among the rank and file whose result was never publicized while the decision of the MB’s Shura Council was based on a thin majority,” said Abdel Hadi. There were 56 votes in favor and 52 against.

He accused the MB of dominating the movement’s political wing, i.e., the Freedom and Justice Party that “supported the nomination of el-Shater just to avoid violating the Muslim Brotherhood’s decision.”

Remarkably, the statement of “A Brotherhood Cry” did not bring up the question of dividing the vote among Islamist candidates that include figures like Hazem Salah and Abu Ismail, who are close to the Salafi movements.

Member of the MB Guidance Council, Juma Amin, told Al-Akhbar that the Islamist forces themselves will be responsible for dividing the vote if that were to happen.

“If they accepted and complied with the MB call to come to an agreement on one Islamist candidate, the problem would have been solved. But the MB found that all the other candidates do not qualify to receive their support,” Amin said.

Amin also denied news that the MB was committed to an initiative by Mohamed Ismail al-Moqadem, a Salafist leader in Alexandria, to reach an agreement between Islamist forces over a presidential candidate.

The spokesperson of the Salafi al-Nour Party, Yusri Hammad, told Al-Akhbar that his party will declare its support for a presidential candidate only “based on the results of the meetings around al-Moqadem’s initiative, where the MB is present.”

He added that “in the case where any of these forces insist on a candidate other than that of the initiative, they would be morally responsible for their position.”

The MB’s decision to nominate el-Shater initially created a controversy about his eligibility to run for president. This was due to the sentence issued against him in a case that dates back to 2006, known in the media as the “al-Azhar Militia” case.

El-Shater was released from prison for health reasons after the revolution without his sentence being repealed. The same military court issued another ruling in his favor last March absolving him from a sentence that goes back to 1995.

He had been sentenced for five years on charges of reviving a “banned group,” known in the media as the MB’s Shura Council case.

But the MB’s lawyer Abdel Moneim Abdel Maqsoud revealed to Al-Akhbar that a court decision in el-Shater’s favor came out a few days ago after the military prosecutor repealed the 1995 sentence.

“It is a ruling that we have not announced yet but whose consequences are the same as the other pardon in terms of fully restoring el-Shater’s political rights. The difference between them is that rehabilitation comes into effect after serving six years of the sentence,” he added.

Nevertheless, the ruling is beset by doubts related to the recently deteriorating relationship between the MB and SCAF.

Amin insisted that the MB’s leadership was “pushed into making this decision despite their previous announcement not to field a MB candidate.”

This was due to “SCAF’s hardline position rejecting repeated requests to replace Kamal al-Ganzouri’s government with a new coalition government.”

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.


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