Inside Story

The Brotherhood’s quest for the presidency

What will the Muslim Brotherhood’s departure from previous policy to nominate a presidential candidate mean for Egypt?

With just a few weeks to go until Egypt holds its first presidential election since the fall of Hosni Mubarak, post-revolutionary Egypt’s most dominant political party has officially entered the contest.

There is a great deal of immaturity in dealing with this issue and all the issues [concerning] the democratic transformation in Egypt. It seems that all the parties concerned are suffering from teenaging symptoms and I believe this is a very dangerous thing at this very critical juncture that we are headed to.

Yehia Ghanem, the managing editor of Al-Ahram International

The Muslim Brotherhood has nominated a presidential candidate – in a major reversal of its previous policy.
Khairat al-Shater is the group’s deputy leader and a millionaire businessman who was imprisoned for 12 years during Mubarak’s rule.
In February, Shater denied the possibility of running as a candidate for the Freedom and Justice Party, the Muslim Brotherhood’s political wing, saying: “We will not nominate a candidate from the Muslim Brotherhood, we’ll announce who we will support just before nominations close.”

But on Saturday, the Brotherhood said the military had blocked their attempts to dismiss the cabinet and threatened to dissolve the newly-elected parliament, as well as attempting to push forward a candidate from the old regime. That, the group said, was why they had decided to put up a presidential candidate despite earlier promises not to.

I think the majority of the Muslim Brotherhood have been taken by surprise [by the decision to nominate Shater] and this might lead to some kind of internal divisions but not [a] split.

Khalil al-Anani, a political analyst

This decision could have major repercussions for the country’s political scene as well as for the movement itself.

Is the nomination likely to intensify a stand-off with the ruling military council? Does the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate stand a chance of becoming Egypt’s next president? And where does his loyalty lie – with the Brotherhood’s Islamic-based ideology, or with the common good of Egypt?
To help us answer these questions Inside Story is joined by: Yahya Hamed, a foreign affairs representative with the Muslim Brotherhood and the Freedom and Justice Party; Yehia Ghanem, the managing editor of Al-Ahram International; and Khalil al-Anani, an Egyptian political analyst.

“Of course the Muslim Brotherhood’s decision has a strong impact, because this nomination now poses a threat to other candidates, since the Muslim Brotherhood, which is a highly-organised group, will support al-Shater. And this means fragmentation of votes amongst Islamic candidates. It will take away from the support of other Islamic candidates.”

Amani Taweel from the Al-Ahram Center for Strategic Studies

History of the Muslim Brotherhood:

  • Founded in 1928, the Muslim Brotherhood is Egypt’s oldest and largest organisation with a mission of promoting Islamic law and values.
  • Until the 1970s the Egyptian government allowed the Brotherhood to operate within limits, keeping it in check with frequent arrests and crackdowns.
  • The Brotherhood renounced violence in the 1970s and was banned until 2011.
  • After President Hosni Mubarak was deposed in 2011, the Brotherhood established the Freedom and Justice Party.
  • Establishing a state based on Islamic law is central to the Brotherhood’s thinking, but its members have not been clear on how their ideology would be reflected in any new laws.
  • The Muslim Brotherhood holds a firm majority in the 100-member constituent assembly, giving them the strongest hand in writing the constitution.
  • The group had said it would only contest 30 per cent of the seats in recent parliamentary elections, but went on to run in nearly every district, winning almost 50 per cent of the vote.
  • Similarly the Brotherhood repeatedly promised that it would not field a presidential candidate, but on Sunday its political arm put forward Khairat al-Shater.