Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Muslim Brotherhood's 'Reserve' Presidential Candidate

by Rick Moran

Earlier this week, the state election commission barred the Muslim Brotherhood candidate Khairat al-Shater, a millionaire businessman and top Brotherhood strategist, from running in the Egyptian presidential election due to a Mubarak-era criminal conviction. Al-Shater was widely believed to have been the frontrunner until he, and two other major candidates (including the Salifis entry) were disqualified by the commission.

But the Brotherhood had a back-up candidate already entered; a 59 year old engineer who heads up their Freedom and Justice Party.

Mohammed Mursi doesn't have the name recognition of al-Shater, but he will benefit from the vast grass roots network the Brotherhood has been building for decades.


The Brotherhood's broad grass-roots network will help Mursi, but rival Islamists and liberal candidates who served under Mubarak have campaigned longer and can boast better name recognition.

Mursi also needs to prove that as the Brotherhood's reserve candidate he has the authority to lead the Arab world's most populous nation after a turbulent transition led by generals who took power after Mubarak was ousted 14 months ago.

"The word 'reserve' is over ... Now the Brotherhood and (its) Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) has a candidate with a clear program in this election," Mursi told Reuters in an interview shortly before his first campaign news conference.

"I hope the people will choose me, an Islamist candidate from the FJP and Muslim Brotherhood, and God willing the system will move towards stability and development," he said.

The election is the final stage in Egypt's transition to civilian rule. The army has said it will hand over power by July 1, but the military, which has provided every president for six decades and has sprawling business interests, is expected to be a powerful player behind the scenes for years.

The outcome of the race is being closely watched around the region, where Egypt has long had an influential role, and in the West, wary of the rise of Islamists in a nation that in 1979 became the first Arab state to make peace with Israel.

The Muslim Brotherhood has broken several promises they made prior to the start of the transition to democracy. They swore they wouldn't compete for more than 1/3 of the seats in Parliament. They ended up competing for more than 50%. Then they promised to have an "inclusive" panel empowered to write the new constitution. They packed it with more than 70% Islamists. They also promised not to enter a presidential candidate in the race. Now they've entered two.

Why should anyone believe their promises that they want a "coalition" government? Or that they won't reneg on the treaty with Israel?

The Muslim Brotherhood has zero credibility - except with the Obama White House who believes them to be moderates and committed to democracy.

We'll see about that, for sure.

Rick Moran


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