Egypt Candidate Warns on Islamists (WSJ) WALL STREET JOURNAL) By MATT BRADLEY, CHARLES LEVINSON and ADAM Z. HORVATH CAIRO, EGYPT 04/19/12)
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As Race Takes Shape, Former Foreign Minister Says a Muslim
Brotherhood Presidential Victory Could Imperil Democracy
CAIRO—The presumed front-runner in Egypt´s newly winnowed
presidential race cast himself as the last bulwark against a surge of
Islamist power, as remaining candidates rushed to define themselves
in their bids to lead the country´s first post-revolutionary
Former Egyptian foreign minister Amr Moussa, in an interview with The
Wall Street Journal a day after the country´s election commission
dismissed 10 candidates from the race, warned that if the Muslim
Brotherhood´s candidate wins the presidency as well as its party
dominating Parliament, it could yield a one-party system that would
brook "no serious debate" in public.
Mr. Moussa has become one of three likely top contenders in a May 23
presidential contest. As outrage over the court´s decision set in on
Wednesday, a narrowed field of less controversial, less charismatic
candidates grappled to seize the momentum and enthusiasm left by
their more divisive counterparts.
Mr. Moussa now faces a difficult and unpredictable battle against the
two other major candidates who emerged from the aftermath of the
election commission´s decision: Mohammed Morsi, the head of the
Muslim Brotherhood´s political party, who joined the race at the last
moment, when it became clear the group´s preferred candidate would
likely be disqualified, and Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, who broke with
the Brotherhood months ago and may represent a moderate Islamist
In a news conference on Wednesday, excluded Brotherhood candidate
Khairat Al Shater sought to channel voter enthusiasm for his aborted
candidacy into Mr. Morsi, a U.S.-educated engineer whom the
Brotherhood tapped to bid for the presidency because of Mr. Shater´s
disqualification over a 2006 fraud conviction.
Mr. Shater told reporters that while he rejected the election
commission´s decision to exclude him, calling it a "crime," he would
anoint Mr. Morsi to carry on his political platform.
The decision, however, demonstrated that the ruling council of
generals who appointed the commission are "not serious about
transferring power to civilians," Mr. Shater said. He called on his
followers to protest the military´s continued rule at a rally in
Cairo´s Tahrir Square on Friday.
Mr. Shater is a rare towering figure within the Brotherhood. His
charismatic personality, deep financial pockets and close ties to the
organization´s powerful conservative old guard give him a political
heft Mr. Morsi could struggle to match as he vies for the presidency.
"The question is will the Muslim Brotherhood give full support
institutionally, politically, financially to Morsi as they would have
for Shater?" said a senior campaign strategist for a rival
presidential candidate. "I don´t know yet."
The commission pushed out Hazem Saleh Abu Ismail, a lawyer turned
populist Islamist preacher, because his late mother was an American
citizen—a breach of Egyptian laws on the nationality of presidential
candidates´ parents and spouses.
It also decided to exclude Omar Suleiman, a former Egyptian spy chief
and confidant of ousted President Hosni Mubarak. Mr. Suleiman´s
campaign didn´t gather enough nominating signatures in the required
number of Egyptian governorates.
Among Western diplomats, Christians and Egypt´s more secular
liberals, the exclusions of the two most polarizing and controversial
candidates in the election have been greeted with a sigh of relief.
U.S. officials have historically warmer relations with Messrs.
Moussa, Aboul Fatouh and Morsi, though all three pose challenges to
U.S. relations as well.
Mr. Suleiman´s removal could strengthen Mr. Moussa since Mr.
Suleiman´s support base was widely believed to draw from a similar
pool of secular-leaning voters.
Unlike the rest of the presidential field, both men carry a
diplomatic gravitas that cast them as Western-looking counterweights
to Islamist candidates—an aspect Mr. Moussa sought to portray on
Wednesday as a savvy "statesmanship."
"This [job] needs a civil role, needs people who understand what to
do when it comes to the economy, when it comes to laws, when it comes
to corruption, when it comes to security, when it comes to the
regional relations," said Mr. Moussa.
Egypt´s emerging political system will "require" a non-Islamist
president who "would cooperate and ask other people to cooperate with
him, rather than have only one current and one policy," he said.
Mr. Moussa warned that the Muslim Brotherhood controlling the
legislature and the executive could return the country to the kind of
autocratic rule that corrupted the ousted regime.
"It would be very destructive," he said. "The [former ruling party]
should not be replaced with a different color and a different hat."
He noted that the Brotherhood had initially promised not to run a
presidential candidate, partly from the same concern.
Mr. Moussa took pains in his interview to express the importance of
Egypt´s relationship with the U.S.—historically Egypt´s strongest
security partner. He was less enthusiastic about Egypt´s relationship
with Israel, a country he has built his career on criticizing.
He even proffered the idea of pursuing an Egyptian "virtual
membership" in the European Union; Egypt wouldn´t seek to join the
bloc, but would use its membership requirements as a guide to
administrative and economic overhauls, he said.
Mr. Moussa has assiduously courted Coptic Christian voters and
appears to be the candidate of choice for Egypt´s roughly 10% Coptic
"I am relieved at what took place [Tuesday] because the
fundamentalists are out," said Youssuf Sidhom, the editor of the
Coptic Christian daily newspaper Al Watani. "They never cease
assuring us they care for Copts and equality, but there always lies a
vast area of historical mistrust. With the Muslim Brotherhood, you
never know. They easily change their position. They easily lie to
Egyptians." Despite those doubts, Mr. Sidhom described Mr. Morsi as a
decent man. —Sharaf Al Hourani contributed to this article.
(Copyright © Dow Jones & Company, Inc.) 04/19/12)
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