Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood faces sharp internal divisions over presidential race (WASHINGTON POST) By Leila Fadel CAIRO, EGYPT 03/27/12)
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CAIRO — With presidential elections set to begin in May, Egypt’s most
powerful Islamist party is sharply divided over whether the group
should field a candidate.
The Muslim Brotherhood had promised
for more than a year that it
would not enter the race, in an apparent effort to allay fears that
the populist group wanted to take advantage of Hosni Mubarak’s ouster
to seize control of the country.
But Brotherhood officials
suggested last week that they might field a
candidate, prompting criticism from political opponents as well as
some of the Brotherhood’s own members, who say that a reversal would
deal a major blow to the group’s reputation and credibility.
internal split over the presidential race follows months in which
the Brotherhood has tried to tread carefully. While seeking a
dominant role in Egypt’s government, the Brotherhood has been
hesitant to reach for full control, wary of Western and liberal fears
of its rise. Members are also keenly aware that the next year will be
a difficult period of transition and, with full control of the
country’s political levers, the Brotherhood could be an easy target
So far, analysts say, the Brotherhood has worked to
enough power to dominate the process while bringing others into the
fold to share the responsibility. But holding the presidency would
take away that shield and put the burden of responsibility on the
Brotherhood’s shoulders, analysts said.
said they expect the matter to be decided at a
meeting of its executive body on Tuesday.
“It’s an unprecedented
crisis in the Brotherhood,” said a prominent
member of the group, who asked to speak anonymously so he could speak
candidly. “Going back on their word is wrong. Islamists have to have
In a statement Monday, the head of the Brotherhood said
the group was
only considering fielding a candidate because it was worried that
former regime figures backed by the ruling military council would win
if it did not. Local newspapers reported Monday that Mubarak-era
intelligence chief Omar Suleiman may run for president.
certainly do not seek power per se,” Mohamed Badie, the supreme
guide, said in a statement.
The Brotherhood — which has emerged
as a powerful player after
decades of repression by Mubarak’s secular but autocratic regime —
has broken at least one earlier political promise. It said its
political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party, would only field
candidates for about a third of the seats in Egypt’s first post-
revolution parliament. But, in the end, it fielded many more, and
members of the group were elected to just under half of the
The Islamist organization ousted a
prominent progressive member,
Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, when he defied the group’s leaders and
said he would run for president. The candidate the Brotherhood is
considering putting forward is its top financier, Khairat el-Shater,
who represents more conservative elements of the group.
week about 20 young Muslim Brotherhood members went to the
group’s headquarters to demand that it honor its promise not to field
a candidate. They also urged the group’s leadership to stop its
practice of dismissing people for joining other political
The Brotherhood is an ideological organization, not a
said Mohammed al-Hadidi, a Brotherhood member who is Shater’s son-in-
law and a member of the dissenting group.
“All of the seats we
got in the parliament are based on the
reputation that we are honest,” Hadidi said in an interview. “We just
want to keep our reputation. Dismissing people based on political
ideology reflects bad behavior of the Muslim Brothers against their
own people, so if they go to the government how will they perform?
How will they deal with other Egyptians who might take different
The Brotherhood had planned to announce its decision
presidential candidate on Friday, but the storm of criticism appeared
to force a postponement. Leading Brotherhood members have denied any
infighting over the issue.
“Twelve people outside the Guidance
Bureau is not a protest,” said
Secretary General Mahmoud Hussein.
On Monday, however, dissent
appeared to be broadening. Mohammed el-
Beltagy, a leading member of the Freedom and Justice Party, urged the
Brotherhood on his Facebook page not to proffer its own candidate and
to “admit its mistakes.” Special correspondent Ingy Hassieb
contributed to this report. (© 2010 The Washington Post Company
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