Sunday, January 21, 2018

Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood faces barrage of criticism

CAIRO — Egypt's most influential Islamist organization faced a barrage of criticism from within and from outside its ranks Sunday after the surprise announcement of a Muslim Brotherhood candidate for president.

The nomination of Khayrat el-Shater — the Brotherhood's chief strategist and a business tycoon — spurred at least two high-level resignations from the organization. The Facebook page of the Brotherhood's youth faction was filled with angry denunciations of "hypocrites" and "liars."

Leaders of the long-oppressed Islamist group had promised multiple times during the past year that they had no intention of fielding a presidential candidate and were not interested in dominating the new Egypt. The vows were an attempt to allay the fears of non- Islamist Egyptians and Western allies. The Brotherhood already controls nearly half of the nation's newly elected parliament.

But analysts said the Brotherhood made the about-face on a candidate because the constitutional powers of the parliament are unknown, its relationship with the nation's military rulers is souring, and the Brotherhood was worried it would not be able to control any of the other candidates who have stepped forward.

The move came despite the risks to the group's credibility and the possibility of an even bigger fight with the military, which governs through the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.

Brotherhood members have grown frustrated with the council because it refuses to dissolve the floundering military-appointed government and replace it with a government dominated by the Brotherhood's political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party.

"It looks like the Brotherhood has decided that they can't rely on the Supreme Council of the Armed Force and need to amass all the power they can now to deal with SCAF," said Michael Wahid Hanna, an Egypt expert at the Century Foundation. "It can only be described as overreach."

The Brotherhood has emerged as one of Egypt's most powerful players since the fall last year of President Hosni Mubarak.

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