Disqualified Islamists: Egypt’s Search for a Leader Plunges into Chaos

April 25th, 2012

Published on Spiegel Online International, by Alexander Smoltczyk and Volkhard Windfuhr,  April 24, 2012. (Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan).

Despite their victory in parliamentary elections, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood have been weakened in the race to elect a successor to former President Hosni Mubarak, after their two most promising candidates were disqualified. Meanwhile ordinary Egyptians, who care more about making a living than religion, are looking for a strong leader for the country … //

… Desire for a Strong Man:  

For the candidates, being viewed by the public as a strong man will be a key factor in their success. The fact that a figure like Suleiman, who disappeared from public view after Mubarak was overthrown, was able to come practically from nowhere to become one of the top candidates also shows how insecure voters are, a little more than a year after the revolution.

Besides, the Egyptians will be electing someone whose responsibilities are not even clear yet, because the country still lacks a new constitution. This prompted the ruling military council to demand that the constitution be completed before the elections. But this will be difficult, since the constitutional convention has no longer existed since two weeks ago. The body, established by the parliament, was disbanded after the Islamists had awarded themselves the majority in the convention.

In addition to coming under growing pressure in recent weeks from the old elites and the military, the Muslim Brotherhood has seen its aura as a party of social rebels gradually disappearing. Cairo’s poor were undoubtedly offended by the disqualified candidate El-Shater’s offhanded remark that his companies were worth “only 25 million Egyptian pounds” (about €3.1 million or $4.1 million).

What is more important, however, is that while the Muslim Brothers have the largest number of seats in parliament, they have no significant posts in the government and the administration. The ordinary people care very little about the differences between the legislative and the executive. This confronts the Muslim Brotherhood with the dilemma of being held responsible for unemployment, uncertainty and inflation, even though it has no power to do anything about these problems — not yet, at least.

Inspired by the Turkish Example:

This explains the Brotherhood’s hasty decision to send its own candidate, El-Shater, into the race, even though it had consistently promised that it would not seek the presidency. The Muslim Brothers are determined to secure power while they still can.

For all its banner-waving and raging against “the enemies of the Islamic project,” the Brotherhood has accepted the disqualification of its candidate in order to avoid a falling out with the military council. It fears an investigation of the parliamentary election for fraud, as the secular camp is demanding. Two ambassadors from Arab countries in Cairo, who preferred not to be identified, estimate that if there were new elections, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists would probably fall short of the 50 percent mark.

Now the Brotherhood has only its alternate candidate, Mohammed Morsy, the somewhat bland chairman of their Freedom and Justice Party. But because Egyptians tend to vote for individuals rather than parties, the renegade Aboul Fotouh is expected to capture a large share of the Islamic vote. A doctor and former student leader, he has been popular since he once picked a quarrel with then-President Anwar Sadat in a televised debate.

Aboul Fotouh believes that democratic principles are compatible with Islam and leans toward the example set by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The Turks have enjoyed an impressive economic boom under Erdogan, whereas the economic situation in Egypt one year after the revolution is unpromising.

Egypt Needs a New Pharaoh: … (full text).

Link: Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh … is an Egyptian physician, former student activist and moderate[specify] Islamist politician. He is known for his staunch opposition to the Sadat and Mubarak regimes as well as his openness towards people of different political ideologies, a subject of controversy among supporters of Egyptian Islamic movements and organisations such the Muslim Brotherhood …

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