Egypt polls: Islamists choosing candidate?

2012-03-28 09:50

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Cairo - Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood has postponed an open confrontation with the country's military rulers and other political players on Tuesday when it delayed a decision about whether to field a candidate for the first presidential elections since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak.

An eight-hour meeting of the Brotherhood's highest leadership body failed to come up with a final decision on whether to reverse an earlier pledge not to contest the presidency. Further meetings of the Brotherhood's Shura Council were to continue next week and a senior member of the group described the discussions as "comprehensive" and "exhausting."

The lack of a decision on Tuesday highlights growing divisions within the group over the thorny presidency question but also the group's hesitancy over a confrontation with the ruling military council and other national forces over the issue.

The Islamist group's increasing grip on power has fuelled concerns among liberals and secularists over its intentions and whether it aims to govern alone, controlling both the parliament and the presidency. If it were to run a candidate, it would hike their fears that it aims for a monopoly.

Moreover, it could anger the military. The generals are believed to be aiming to back a consensus candidate for president — one that would have Brotherhood backing but would also protect the military's interests. If the Brotherhood goes with its own candidate, it would challenge that scenario.

"We discussed all the recent developments. There are many views, but the debate is not settled yet. So they remain points of view," said Mahmoud Hussein, the Brotherhood's secretary general. "We prefer to postpone the discussions so that minds and bodies come prepared and not tired the next round."

Most powerful political group

More than 100 members of the Brotherhood's Shura Council, which serves as a sort of legislative body for the group, met on Tuesday to decide on fielding a presidential candidate, according to a statement on the group's website.

The Brotherhood has emerged as the most powerful political group since Hosni Mubarak was ousted last year, capturing nearly 50 percent of the seats in Egypt's first post-uprising parliament. The group has also claimed a firm majority for Islamists in the 100-member panel that will write the country's post-Mubarak constitution.

If the group makes a presidential bid, it would certainly deepen these fears that the group wants to govern alone. Since Mubarak's ouster, the group has promised not to field a candidate in order to allay those worries.

Given the Brotherhood's popular support and skills at rallying voters, its candidate would stand a strong chance of winning the presidency in late May's elections.

- AP
Read more on:    muslim brotherhood  |  egypt  |  north africa
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