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Sun 1 Apr 2012 08:47 AM

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Egypt’s Brotherhood nominates president candidate

Muslim Brotherhood unveils Khairat el-Shater as candidate for May election

Egypt’s Brotherhood nominates president candidate
(Getty Images)

The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s dominant power in parliament, nominated a presidential candidate for the May election, potentially increasing tensions between the once-banned group and the country’s ruling generals.

Khairat el-Shater, announced as the candidate during a press conference yesterday in Cairo, is a senior official within the Islamist movement.

The Brotherhood, whose Freedom and Justice Party holds 47 percent of the seats in parliament’s lower house, had said it wasn’t planning to run a candidate in the May presidential elections. The group has clashed in recent weeks with the military rulers who took over after former President Hosni Mubarak was ousted last year.

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

El-Shater is a leader in the Brotherhood’s Guidance Council, its main decision-making body. He has been imprisoned several times, meaning that he would have to be pardoned by Egypt’s military ruler, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, in order to run.

El-Shater’s campaign would “likely be something done in coordination with SCAF,” Hani Sabra, Middle East analyst with the Eurasia Group, a consultancy, said in a telephone interview, referring to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.

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

The decision by the group’s Shura, or Guidance, council after the emergency meeting followed what Hussein said were the Brotherhood’s attempts over the past few months to move the country forward with the Freedom and Justice Party’s leading role in parliament. Instead the current government has continually failed to address Egypt’s growing economic problems as well as deteriorating security and challenges to the transition to democracy, he said.

Sabra, the Eurasia Group analyst, said the nomination of El-Shater, a millionaire businessman, “immediately makes him a front-runner in the race.”

His prominence in the group gives him more stature than other Islamist candidates, including Abdel-Monein Abul-Fottouh, and the idea that Abul-Futtouh, who angered the Brotherhood by breaking ranks and announcing his own candidacy, “would challenge him is bogus,” Sabra said.

The parliament, whose second-largest membership is from the ultra-conservative Salafi party, Al-Nour, is preparing to test the military further by pushing again for a no-confidence motion against the interim government. A similar attempt over the past couple of weeks resulted in the comments by the military suggesting the need to learn from history so that past mistakes aren’t repeated. Egyptian media and analysts saw that as a reference to the repeated crackdowns on the Brotherhood under earlier regimes.