Egypt's Brotherhood may bid for president

In policy U-turn, senior members of Brotherhood say the Islamist organization will run a candidate in 1st free election.

First anniversary of Egypt’s uprising in Tahrir Square 390 (photo credit: Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters))
First anniversary of Egypt’s uprising in Tahrir Square 390
(photo credit: Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters))
CAIRO - The Muslim Brotherhood might make a policy U-turn and contest May's presidential election, senior members said on Wednesday, as the group had yet to see a name among the declared candidates it was prepared to back.
The Brotherhood, which dominated the first parliamentary vote after Hosni Mubarak's ouster last year, had said it would not run in what is billed as Egypt's first free and fair presidential race. The first round of voting is on May 23-24.
The group instead said it would endorse one of the other candidates running. Analysts said the Brotherhood did not want to run to avoid alienating those in the electorate who are wary about Islamists sweeping the new political scene.
But the Brotherhood has yet to declare support for any of the candidates who have lined up so far and who include Amr Moussa, a former Arab League chief who describes himself as a liberal nationalist, and Abdel Moneim Abol Fotoh, who was expelled from the Brotherhood when he defied the ban on running.
"The Brotherhood might choose to back one of its own as a presidential candidate for Egypt given the lack of choices," Medhat Hadad, a member of the group's Shura Council which decides on policy, told Reuters.
"Of those who applied already, the Brotherhood has not found a presidential candidate it is willing to support," he said.
Of the nearly 1,000 candidates who have so far requested applications only three have formally submitted documents to run. Political parties in parliament can field one candidate, while independents need the backing of at least 30 members of parliament or the support of 30,000 Egyptians across the nation.
Another source inside the Brotherhood said the Islamist group's Shura council and its governing body would vote on Friday to determine whether to change tack and field their own candidate.
Mahmoud Hussein, the Brotherhood's secretary-general, confirmed a possible change of tack, saying: "It is possible the Muslim Brotherhood will put forth a candidate if it has to." Hadad said the Brotherhood would not back Abol Fotoh as a matter of principle after he defied the group's earlier position not to run.
It was not clear who could be the Brotherhood's candidate. Possible contenders could include Khairat al-Shater, a deputy to the Brotherhood's leader and an accomplished businessman, although one insider said it was unlikely.
Before any bid, Shater would have to request that a military tribunal annul his conviction in 2007 for allegedly supplying university students with military training. He was sentenced to seven years in jail, and was freed with many other Brotherhood members in 2011 after serving four-and-a-half years.
For most of his 30 years in office, Mubarak was elected by single candidate referendums. But in 2005, after pressure from the United States, a close ally, Egypt held its first multi-candidate presidential race.
Independent observers said that vote was littered with abuses and rules were skewed to ensure there was no real challenge to the incumbent.