From the start of the Egyptian revolution, many feared that the end of Mubarak’s despotic regime would only pave the way for the Islamic rule of the Muslim Brotherhood. Even after the Muslim Brotherhood officially rejoined the Egyptian political scene from which it had been banned, the group promised to stay out of the next presidential race. But in recent weeks the group had been weighing the pros and cons (mainly negative public reaction) to putting forward a presidential candidate.
Now, in a big about face, they have.
The Christian Science Monitor reports:
The decision to field Khairat El Shater, a wealthy businessman who has served mostly behind the scenes, came after nearly a year in which the Muslim Brotherhood said it would not contest the presidential elections so as not to provoke fear of Islamic rule in Egypt. But in a press conference Saturday night at their new headquarters, Brotherhood leaders said they found it necessary to change course because the transition to democracy is under threat, and the group was stymied in parliament.
“We have chosen the path of the presidency not because we are greedy for power but because we have a majority in parliament which is unable to fulfill its duties,” said Mohamed Morsy, head of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party. Mahmoud Hussein, the group’s secretary general, cited attempts to “abort the revolution.”
The move is the Brotherhood’s trump card in a recently escalating battle for power with the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), the military council currently ruling Egypt, say analysts. But it could cause a backlash, not only at home but also abroad, among Western governments wary of an Islamist regime in Egypt. The risky step from the conservative movement is an indication of the difficult political realities confronting the Brotherhood as it attempts to transition from a repressed opposition group to a majority power.
“This is the last-mile fight,” says Khalil Al Anani, an expert on Islamist politics at Durham University who is currently in Egypt. “After [the Brotherhood] realized that the parliament is powerless, they decided to fight until the last point that they can reach to guarantee some kind of power over the new political system…. This is a serious conflict over power with the military.”
Should El Shater win the presidency, the Muslim Brotherhood would dominate Egyptian politics—but could run up against a stubborn military leadership that is reticent to give up its power. That could lead to more armed conflict. Either way, it stands to reason that relations with Israel and the United States are headed in the wrong direction.