Muslim Brotherhood and The Presidential Campaign in Egypt

Yusuf Fernandez

Muslim BrotherhoodTens of thousands of Egyptians filled Cairo´s Tahrir Square on April 13to protest against the disqualification of 10 candidates by a panel of Mubarak-era judges. The demonstrators demanded an immediate transfer of power from the military junta to the Parliament.

The opponents to the military rule who filled the Square denounced the generals´ efforts to abort a handover of power. During their tenure, more than 100 people have been killed in crackdowns on protests. Thousands of civilians have been detained and tried in military courts in this last year.

The latest blow to Egyptians´ aspirations was the Supreme Presidential Electoral Comission (SPEC)´s move, which eliminated from the race the top candidate from each political bloc. The Salafist candidate, Hazem Abu Ismail, was disqualified allegedly because his mother had the US citizenship. Ismail contested the claim as false, but the Egyptian foreign and interior ministries along with the US State Department pointed out that Abu Ismail’s mother had received a US passport before she died.

This move left the Salafists, whose main party Al-Nour obtained almost 30% of votes in the parliamentary elections, without any candidate who could support their views. The commission also disqualified Omar Suleiman, the former head of the Egyptian intelligence service and vice-president under ousted dictator Hosni Mubarak’s rule. However, Minister Ahmed Shafiq, a former prime minister during Mubarak´s time, was allowed to become a candidate.

Khairat Al-Shatir
The Muslim Brotherhood´s top candidate, Khairat el-Shater, was also disqualified because he was a political prisoner under Mubarak. Al-Shater was arrested with other leading members of the Brotherhood in 2006, when the Mubarak regime launched an offensive against “Islamist businessmen”. A military court sentenced him to 7 years in prison. He was allegedly accused of money laundering, providing students with weapons and funding “illegal” group. He was released by the SCAF soon after it took power, reportedly for health reasons. Al-Shater´s lawyers claimed that he received a full pardon, which covered all charges against him. However, the SPEC turned down the appeals submitted by the disqualified candidates.

The SPEC is made up by a group of judges appointed by the SCAF. Its president, Farouk Sultan, is a former army officer and judge in the military court system. Some commentators hold the position that the SPEC took its decision to disqualify the candidates on behalf of the SCAF junta, which wanted in particular to get rid of Al-Shater.

Al-Shater, a businessman and former banker, represents the economic interests of the Brotherhood. He is the owner of a business empire; his economic platform sought to attract more foreign investment and further privatize and liberalize the Egyptian economy. The military saw his economic programme as a potential threat to its economic interests. The army controls large parts of the country´s economy. Recently, SCAF said that it would “fight to defend our projects”.

After knowing the decision of the Electoral Comission, Al-Shatir accused the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) of not being serious about the handover of power. He also said that the military junta was “looking for a figure that it can control from behind the scenes,” “We vow to defend the revolution and to overthrow the rest of Mubarak’s regime and to cleanse establishments and institutions that support the old regime”, he added.

However, the Brotherhood and its political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) announced they are still in the competition for the presidency of the Republic. Their second candidate, Mohamed Mursi, said that he would adopt the same approach and programme of Al Shater. In a statement issued by the Brotherhood and the FJP, they reiterated that they have “a comprehensive renaissance project for Egypt that covers all fields and sectors, and is capable of taking Egypt to safety shores of stability, security and prosperity.”

The Commission´s decision to ban Al-Shater from running for president is a further indication of a growing conflict between the ruling military and the Brotherhood. Although Mursi is still in the race, he is less popular than Al-Shater and his possibilities of winning the election are also very few.

Initially, the Brotherhood supported the SCAF´s move to take over the power. The Brotherhood and the Salafists then supported a law issued by the generals in March 2011 banning strikes and protests and backed virtually all the SCAF’s decisions. However, after its victory in the parliamentary elections, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) and the Brotherhood have taken a more confrontational stance towards the SCAF junta.

The reason of this new approach is that their outrage for the SCAF´s refusal to remove the interim government headed by Kamal Ganzouri and replace it with another national unity government, as the new parliament has demanded. They claim that SCAF is unwilling to give up power and seeks to continue ruling the country. The newly elected parliament remains largely powerless.

Division among the revolutionaries

Muslim BrotherhoodOn the other hand, the division between its “Islamist” and “secularist” sectors within the revolutionary camp is getting worse and worse. The first contentious issue was the criteria and methods for selecting the 100 members of the comission charged with drafting the new constitution. When the Islamist parliamentary majority demanded 72 of the 100 seats, liberals withdrew and accused them of being deliberately exclusionist. Later, they lawsuit it what froze all activities of the commission.

In the recent protests, including the above-mentioned one in Tahrir Square, demonstrators voiced more division than unity, with many liberals and Salafists accusing the Brotherhood of being more focused on its own political interests than on increasing pressure on the military. Ahmed Said, leader of the liberal Free Egyptians Party, said that it was obvious that the Brotherhood resorted to Tahrir to polish its revolutionary image and serve its own interests.

“The Brotherhood’s leaders left us alone in many earlier confrontations in which we were the first to call for the removal of the present cabinet led by Prime Minister Kamal El-Ganzouri, and were critical of SCAF,” claimed Said. “We would need a clear apology first before we can consider having confidence in the Brotherhood after its repeated failed promises.” 

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The second controversy was triggered by the Brotherhood’s decision to field a presidential candidate, breaking the pledge they had repeated for more than a year.

The decision caused dismay in political circles, especially among the secularists and the SCAF.

It was seen as further evidence that the Muslim Brotherhood wanted to “monopolise power”. However, the Muslim Brotherhood rejected these claims by saying that in the most democratic countries the president of the republic and the parliament are usually in the hands of the same party.

However, prospects are not very positive for the Brotherhood. According to a poll by Al Ahram, it will be independent Abdel Moneim Abul Futuh who will become the successful Islamic candidate who will compete with the other favourite candidate, former secretary-general of the Arab League Amr Moussa, for the presidency in the second round of the presidential elections in June.

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Source: Al-Manar Website
11-05-2012 – 16:07 Last updated 11-05-2012 – 16:09

Egyptian Candidates Debate: Peace Treaty with Israel to be Revised

Local Editor

Egypt’s hopeful presidential candidates have made the first televised presidential debate in Egypt’s history strongly criticizing Israel and calling it as an enemy to the Egyptian nation.
Abul Fotouh, Amr MoussaThe two front-runners in Egypt’s presidential election were Amr Moussa, a former foreign minister and Arab League chief, and Abdel Moneim Abul Fotouh. The debate, which was aired on two private Egyptian television channels, ONTV and Dream, lasted for nearly four hours late into the night on Thursday.

The two traded accusations against each other but both agreed the country’s 1979 “peace treaty” with the Israeli occupation had to be revised though not annulled.

Abul Fotouh, Amr Moussa“Israel is an enemy, an entity established on occupying the land and threatening our security,” former leading member of Muslim Brotherhood Abul Fotouh said. “An entity that has 200 nuclear warheads, has a vast amount of reinforcements on the pretext of security, an entity that stands against international resolutions and rejects the return of the Palestinian people’s rights,” he was quoted as saying by AP.

Moussa also expressed similar views against the Zionist entity. “Most of our people consider it [Israel] an enemy, most of our people don’t agree with it and don’t trust the peace with it. This is true,” Moussa said.

Egyptian polls have suggested that Moussa and Abul Fotouh are the leading contenders in the May 23-24 polls.
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