Egypt´s Brotherhood Names Presidential Candidate (WSJ) WALL STREET JOURNAL) By MATT BRADLEY and AMINA ISMAIL CAIRO, EGYPT 04/01/12)
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CAIRO -- Egypt´s Muslim Brotherhood will back the organization´s
former deputy head and chief financier in the race for Egypt´s
presidency, accelerating the powerful Islamist group toward a
possible collision with the country´s interim ruling military regime
that threatens to undermine Egypt´s tense transition to democracy.
Mohamed Badie, the Brotherhood´s head or General Guide, told
reporters on Saturday night that Khairat Al Shater, 62, had submitted
his resignation from the group in order to pursue the presidency in
elections that begin on May 23.
The Brotherhood´s move is the latest salvo in its recent
confrontation with a lameduck military leadership that has pledged to
yield its power to an elected president by the end of June.
Mr. Badie and other senior Muslim Brotherhood figures made no secret
that their endorsement of Mr. Al Shater was meant as a rejoinder to
the Supreme Council of Armed Forces, or SCAF, the council of generals
who have clung to the levers of executive power in Egypt´s government
even after the election of a Brotherhood-dominated parliament in
Without directly accusing the military of trying to frustrate Egypt´s
transition to democracy, Mahmoud Hussein, the deputy head of the
group, said "threats to the revolution" compelled the organization to
nominate one of its own. Mr. Hussein said the SCAF had done too
little to yield control.
Mr. Hussein said the SCAF had threatened to dissolve Egypt´s Islamist-
dominated parliament and refused to dismiss the military-appointed
cabinet and allow parliament to nominate its own ministers.
The Brotherhood has repeatedly accused the cabinet, which is led by
former Prime Minister Kamal Al Ganzouri, of making a hash of Egypt´s
political transition while doing little to reverse the country´s
The Brotherhood leadership seemed to acknowledge that their
endorsement of Mr. Al Shater would rattle liberals and the military
by expanding the group´s claims on political power to nearly all
elements of Egypt´s emerging democracy, including the parliament, the
presidency and the body charged with writing Egypt´s new constitution.
"The Freedom and Justice Party confirms that it is not seeking power
for the sake of fame, but to achieve its larger objectives which are
to please God, comprehensive reform and meeting the goals and
objectives of the revolution," said Mr. Hussein.
Mr. Hussein said Mr. Al Shater´s candidacy will present a popular
bulwark against several candidates who enjoy the backing of the
former regime. Mohamed Morsi, the chairman of the Brotherhood´s
Freedom and Justice Party, also thanked the military for securing
Egypt during a sensitive moment in its history.
Mr. Al Shater spent more than a decade in prison under the previous
regime for his financial backing of the once illegal Brotherhood. His
previous convictions for membership in the Brotherhood -- which was
illegal under President Hosni Mubarak who was ousted last February --
could still prevent him from running for president under Egyptian law.
Mr. Morsi told reporters on Saturday that the military had already
cleared Mr. Al Shater of all charges. Military officials could not be
reached for comment.
In selecting Mr. Al Shater, the Brotherhood is effectively
challenging the military to pardon Mr. Al Shater´s conviction or
confront the Brotherhood´s legions of members and supporters. The
military pardoned Ayman Nour, another prominent dissident politician
under the previous regime, earlier this week.
The Brotherhood and their partners among ultra-conservative Salafi
Islamists have on rare occasions used street protests to press their
demands over the past year. During at least three Brotherhood-led
protests in the past year, the organization has rallied huge shows of
force by bringing out enormous numbers.
Mr. Al Shater has long enjoyed a reputation as one of the most
powerful members in the 84-year old organization. A multimillionaire
businessowner with interests in textiles and furniture, Mr. Al Shater
has spent a fortune financing the Brotherhood´s political and public
It´s unclear what an Al Shater presidency would look like but his
political background has shown a tendency toward hardline religious
conservatism and a market-oriented business savvy.
The Brotherhood´s decision to back one of its own members marks the
latest reversal of the Islamist group´s previous commitments that it
would not use its well-established popularity to dominate the first
elected government in post-revolutionary Egypt.
Mr. Al Shater´s largely symbolic resignation from the Brotherhood
allows the group to hew to its earlier pledges that it would not
field a candidate.
But activists have noted that the Brotherhood reversed previous
pledges meant to reassure anxious liberals and observers in the West
that the group intended to check its own formidable political power.
Last year, the group said it would only field candidates in a limited
number of constituencies in parliamentary elections. But the group´s
political party ended up posting candidates -- sometimes more than
one -- in almost all of Egypt´s parliamentary constituencies.
Liberal and secular-minded activists were also outraged last week
when politicians and intellectuals from the Brotherhood and Salafi
political parties dominated a constituent assembly that will be
charged with drafting Egypt´s next constitution.
Religious conservatives had said that the constitution drafting
process would be inclusive of a variety of political voices despite
Islamists´ strong presence in parliament.
The Brotherhood´s backing will leapfrog Mr. Al Shater from the
shadows of the secretive group´s upper leadership to frontrunner
status in a hotly contested presidential race that is so far
dominated -- and perhaps split -- by Islamist candidates of varying
hues of conservatism.
While electoral polls in Egypt are rare and somewhat unreliable,
anecdotal evidence shows that the secular-minded Amr Moussa, the
former secretary general of the Arab League, may still be Mr. Al
Shater´s primary competitor.
But prominent Islamist leaders have made strong showings at rallies
over the past several weeks.
Liberal activists as well as many young Islamists have rallied behind
Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh who was a leading reformist voice within
the Muslim Brotherhood before the group expelled him last summer.
He is challenged by Hazem Salah Abu Ismail, a deeply conservative
Islamist intellectual who enjoys support from within both the
Brotherhood and Egypt´s loosely-joined Salafi community. Write to
Matt Bradley at firstname.lastname@example.org (Copyright © Dow Jones &
Company, Inc.) 04/01/12)
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