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Muslim Brotherhood Makes Bold Move In Egypt, Names Candidate For President

March 31, 2012

There will be a blow-back over this decision.

Some background here.

The Muslim Brotherhood nominated its chief strategist and financier Khairat el-Shater on Saturday as its candidate to become Egypt’s first president since Hosni Mubarak, breaking a pledge not to seek the top office and a monopoly on power.

Mr. Shater, 62, a millionaire business tycoon, was a political prisoner until just a year ago. Because of the Brotherhood’s unrivaled grass-roots organization and popular appeal, he is now a presidential front-runner.

He is being nominated at a moment of escalating tension between the Brotherhood and Egypt’s military rulers. The Brotherhood, an Islamist group outlawed under Mr. Mubarak, already dominates the Parliament and the assembly writing a new Constitution. It is now demanding to replace the military-led cabinet and is tussling with the military council over questions like the degree of civilian oversight of the military under the new charter.

His candidacy is likely to unnerve the West and has already outraged Egyptian liberals, who wonder what other pledges of moderation the Brotherhood may abandon.

The Brotherhood’s entry into the race also turns the election into a debate over the future of the Islamist political movement that is sure to resonate in the region. Mr. Shater faces Islamist rivals to his left and right — one a more liberal former Brotherhood leader, the other an ultraconservative Salafist. Indeed, the Brotherhood may have entered the race in part because a strong showing by either rival could undercut the group’s authority as the predominant voice of Islam in Egyptian politics.

Mr. Shater is considered a conservative but a pragmatist. He has argued that Islam demands tolerance and democracy, has championed free trade and open markets and has guided the Brotherhood through its first public commitment to uphold the peace agreement with Israel.

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