Egypt´s Muslim Brotherhood to field presidential candidate (CNN) Cable News Network) From Mohamed Fadel Fahmy Cairo, Egypt 04/02/12)
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Cairo, Egypt (CNN) -- The political arm of Egypt´s Muslim Brotherhood
has announced plans to run one of its leaders in the country´s
presidential elections in May, reversing an earlier pledge to stay
out of the race.
The once-banned Islamist movement will be represented by Khairat al-
Shater, a longtime financial backer, the Brotherhood announced over
the weekend. Al-Shater has resigned from his post as deputy chairman
to join the already crowded field of presidential candidates, group
The jail terms he served under ex-Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak
had been an obstacle that would have kept him off the ballot. But the
Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which took power after the 2011
uprising that toppled Mubarak, pardoned him Sunday, his lawyer, Abdel
Moneim Abdel Maqsood, told CNN.
The Muslim Brotherhood has pledged repeatedly that it would not field
a presidential candidate. But candidates from its political arm, the
Freedom and Justice party, won the largest share of seats in Egypt´s
parliamentary elections in December. And Brotherhood leader Mohamed
Badie said Saturday the new Egypt "is under a serious threat" because
its current, military-led government "has failed to represent the
will of the people."
More than 450 people have already registered or announced plans to
seek the presidency. Among them are former Arab League Secretary-
General Amr Moussa -- who served as Mubarak´s foreign minister -- and
Ayman Nour, an opposition leader jailed by Mubarak and recently
pardoned as well.
The field also includes other Islamist presidential hopefuls,
including the ultra-conservative Salafist candidate Hazem Abu Ismael
and former Muslim Brotherhood member Abdel Moneim Abou El Fettouh,
who broke with the Muslim Brotherhood over what he called its
Al-Shater is a furniture and textile magnate who has led the
Brotherhood´s business association. Though considered a conservative,
he is also credited with being the driving force behind the
Brotherhood´s affirmation that Egypt should continue to honor its
international agreements -- including its peace treaty with Israel.
Liberals and secularists who led the uprising against Mubarak fear
that a victory in the presidential elections, the first round of
which begins May 23, may lead the Brotherhood to impose a
fundamentalist Islamic agenda on Egypt.
"Their stance continues to change as they strengthen their political
position," socialist activist Sherif Maher said. "They were patient
after Mubarak fell and announced that they would not seek more than
20% of the seats in parliament. The number went up to 30, and now
they have won more than half of the constituent assembly."
But Rami Shaath, a founding member of the Egyptian Revolutionary
Alliance, said al-Shater´s entry into the race may be a bid to make
an example of Aboul Fettouh, "who had defected against their will."
"Aboul Fettouh is championed by the revolutionaries and not favored
by the military," Shaath said. "They also want to make a point to the
youth of the Brotherhood that abandoning the group may cripple one´s
In March, the Muslim Brotherhood blasted the Supreme Council of the
Armed Forces for holding onto power despite the parliamentary
elections and questioning whether the generals would try to rig the
presidential vote. In a rare and charged public response, the
generals hit back against what they called a "baseless slander" and
an "unacceptable" challenge to the legitimacy of elections.
Al-Shater is a 61-year-old civil engineer who became a millionaire
businessman. He has been involved with Islamist groups since the late
1960s, according to his official biography, and was jailed for five
years by a military court during a crackdown on Islamist movements in
In 2007, he was charged with providing funds and weapons to college
students and imprisoned again. He was still behind bars when the
regime fell in February 2011, and the military junta that took power
from Mubarak released him for medical reasons a month later. Before
Sunday´s pardon, that record could have disqualified him from the
race. CNN´s Ben Wedeman contributed to this report. (© 2012 Cable
News Network 04/02/12)
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