Egypts Muslim Brotherhood Nominates Presidential Candidate Courtesy Of Ap

04.02.12 | Bob Price

“We have taken administrative, legal and judicial measures before the military judiciary and based on this, all convictions have been dropped,” Abdel Monem Abdel Maqsoud said in a phone interview in Cairo yesterday. “All legal obstacles have been removed, and el-Shater now has the right to fully exercise all his political rights,” he said.

Khairat el-Shater of the Muslim Brotherhood waves as he arrives to al-Galaa court in Cairo on Dec. 10, 2007. El-Shater is a leader in the Brotherhood’s Guidance Council, its main decision-making body. Photographer: Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images

Khairat el-Shater of the Muslim Brotherhood waves as he arrives to al-Galaa court in Cairo on Dec. 10, 2007. El-Shater is a leader in the Brotherhood’s Guidance Council, its main decision-making body. Photographer: Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images

The Brotherhood said March 31 that el-Shater was its candidate for the presidential election that begins May 23 and May 24, making him one of the favorites to win and potentially increasing tensions between the once-banned group and the generals who currently rule the nation. He received 58 out of 110 votes at a meeting of the Brotherhood’s consultative council, according to Arab satellite network Al-Jazeera. The narrow majority suggested rifts within the organization.

Abdel Maqsoud said the necessary legal steps were taken “over the last days.” El-Shater, 62, will submit his candidacy application this week, Abdel Maqsoud said. “The Brotherhood wouldn’t have named him if there were still obstacles.”

El-Shater spent years in and out of the jails of former President Hosni Mubarak. In the most recent conviction, he was sentenced in 2008 by a military court to seven years in prison amid a crackdown on the Brotherhood by the then government. He was released in March 2011, less than a month after Mubarak’s ouster.

Millionaire Engineer

The nomination of the millionaire, an engineer by training and widely seen as the Brotherhood’s chief financier, drew criticism from some members of the group. Kamal el-Helbawy, the Brotherhood’s former spokesman in Europe, said he was resigning, citing what he said was the organization’s conflicting stances, the state-run daily Al-Akhbar reported.

The Brotherhood, whose Freedom and Justice Party alliance holds 47 percent of the seats in parliament’s lower house, had previously said it wasn’t planning to run a candidate for the presidency. The group has clashed in recent weeks with the military rulers who took over after Mubarak’s ouster.

Freedom and Justice party head, Mohamed Morsi, said concerns that the group was trying “to control all leadership positions in the state” were unfounded, according to a statement e-mailed late yesterday.

Political Tensions

The nomination of El-Shater comes amid political tensions as the Islamist group, secularists and the ruling military wrangle over issues including the composition of the committee charged with drafting the country’s constitution.

Prime Minister Kamal el-Ganzouri said the current political situation in the country was “more than concerning” and was creating “great fear” about Egypt’s future, lawmaker Moustafa Bakri told reporters yesterday after a meeting between members of parliament from Cairo governorate that was attended by the premier and several ministers. Freedom and Justice Party lawmakers didn’t attend the meeting.

El-Shater’s nomination “immediately makes him a front- runner in the race,” Hani Sabra, Middle East analyst with the Eurasia Group, a consultancy, said in a telephone interview.

The businessman, who holds investments ranging from furniture and clothing to bus assembly and pharmaceuticals, said in an interview with Bloomberg News last year that he backed a strong private sector and that the Brotherhood wants “to attract as much investment as possible.”

Tension With Generals

El-Helbawy said that the army would use el-Shater’s candidacy as a pretext to stifle the country’s move to democracy and, eventually, the Brotherhood itself, Al-Akhbar reported.

The group has criticized the generals for rejecting its calls to fire the current Cabinet for failing to revive the economy. The group’s secretary-general, Mahmoud Hussein, said the government hasn’t met the needs of the people and that there is a “threat to the revolution.”

El-Shater has been a senior member of the Brotherhood’s Guidance Council, its main decision-making body, and the Brotherhood’s deputy leader.

El-Shater’s campaign would have to be “something done in coordination with SCAF,” said Sabra, referring to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.

Economy Deteriorates

Hussein said the Brotherhood’s decision to field a candidate came after reports that former members of Mubarak’s regime were considering running for office, which heightened concerns that the country’s push for democracy was under threat.

The decision to nominate El-Shater for the presidency followed what Hussein said were the Brotherhood’s attempts in recent months to move the country forward using its party’s leading role in parliament. The government has failed to address Egypt’s deepening economic slump, deteriorating security and challenges to the transition to democracy, he said.

Egypt is trying to secure a $3.2 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund -- money that would help it access other donor aid. The Brotherhood, while not rejecting the loan, has said it wants to make sure that the government has exhausted all other options first. The IMF, which sent a technical committee last week to Egypt, has said it wants to see broad consensus from all political groups over the government’s economic program before approving the loan.

The parliament, whose second-largest membership is from the conservative Salafi party, Al-Nour, is preparing to test the military further by pushing again for a no-confidence motion against the interim government. An earlier attempt resulted in comments by the military that people needed to learn from history and avoid repeating past mistakes. Egyptian media and analysts saw that as a reference to the crackdowns on the Brotherhood under earlier governments.