The unbrotherly relations between Egypt´s Omar Suleiman and the Muslim Brotherhood (HA´ARETZ NEWS) By Zvi Bar´el 04/15/12)
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There´s never a dull moment for Egypt´s former Intelligence Minister
Omar Suleiman. On Saturday, hundreds of thousands of Egyptian
citizens gathered in Tahrir Square to protest his presidential
candidacy. Most of those protesters were supporters of the Muslim
Brotherhood, but they were joined by those who belong to secular
movements. Demonstrators held posters picturing Suleiman on a
backdrop of the Israeli flag and shouted slogans of "Suleiman and
Israel hand in hand" through megaphones.
They clearly indicated - not only to Suleiman, but also to the
election committee charged with deciding if the general is fit for
election – that anyone who approves his candidacy effectively paves
the way for Israel´s entrance into Egyptian politics. In the heat of
the demonstration, large groups of protesters made their way toward
the building that houses the election committee, and threatened to
attack committee members. In the last minute however, the committee
members abandoned the building and agreed to postpone the decision.
But Suleiman, a 76-year-old senior general, has gained skills not
only in the military academy of Egypt, but also in that of the USSR.
He participated in the Six Day War, the Yom Kippur War, and – no less
importantly – Suleiman is a product of the tough southern Egypt, an
area that has produced intellectual combatants the shaped the country
for generations. His quiet tone of voice is known - including by
Israelis who have worked with him - to be misleading.
It is now time for Suleiman to manage a new political campaign – one
that he is not accustomed to. He must compete with two central
movements: the Muslim Brotherhood and their religious partners on the
one side and the secular movements on the other, whose common
denominator is their hate for remnants of the Mubarak regime and
their mutual fear of one another. The question is whether the
relationship between the two groups could allow Suleiman to gain the
support of the secular Egyptians, the Copts and the liberals.
A survey conducted by Al Arabia indicated that most respondents
prefer a presidential regime over a governmental regime under which
the majority of authority lies with the government, while the
president´s role remains symbolic. It seems that Suleiman will frame
his candidacy as one that will meet the demand of a strong president,
preferably a military man. But what Suleiman may not have taken into
account is the extent to which the Egyptian people oppose the
candidacy of officials who served under the Mubarak regime.
The parliament dominated by Muslim Brotherhood members sees Suleiman
as a threat in various ways. If elected as president, he is likely –
in their opinion – to put the brakes on their desire to apply Sharia
law to state law, to grant the army freedom to act in the country´s
economic and social fields, and could be a candidate that serves as a
safe-haven for all opponents of the Muslim Brotherhood and other
religious parties. The worst case for the Muslim Brotherhood would be
if their presidential candidate, Khairat al-Shater, fails to overcome
the "old regime."
The Muslim Brotherhood has therefore rushed to introduce a bill in
parliament that forbids any senior officials of the Mubarak regime
from running for presidential candidacy. Under the new law, all those
who served as prime minister, vice-president or the head of a party
under Mubarak in the 10 years preceding the revolution would not be
allowed to run for president in the next ten years. As such, under
the bill, Suleiman, who served for a short time as Mubarak´s vice-
president, and Ahmed Shafiq, who served in the past as prime
minister, would not be eligible to run for president. However, former
Foreign Minister Amr Moussa would be eligible. The bill was passed in
Egyptian parliament on Thursday, but has not yet been approved by the
ruling military council nor the elections committee, who are yet to
take a position on the matter.
Over the weekend, Suleiman made harsh claims against the Muslim
Brotherhood, accusing them of being responsible for attacks on police
stations, of "hijacking the revolution" and of threatening his life.
Now, his supporters and competitors must investigate those claims
before they make any decisions regarding his candidacy.
It seems that the commotion Suleiman is causing is actually working
in his favor for now, as a survey conducted by the newspaper Al-Masry
Al-Youm attributed him with 20 percent of votes, as opposed to only 7
percent that went to Moussa. On the other hand, his opponents claim
the announcement of his candidacy caused a steep drop in the stock
exchange that led to losses of six billion Egyptian pounds.
The reason for this that Suleiman´s candidacy and the threatening
reaction of the Muslim Brotherhood - who declared they would head to
the streets if he is elected - have caused instability and concern
that the presidential elections will suffer from forgery and the
influence of the army, which would want Suleiman to serve as
The shock of Egyptian speculations is burning everywhere, and by the
time Egypt holds presidential elections its citizens are expected to
go through a great number of ups and downs mainly related with the
ability of Egypt´s parliament to work out a temporary economic plan
that allows the country to get back to normal. (© Copyright 2012
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