By Mai Shams El-Din
CAIRO/ALEXANDRIA: The Muslim Brotherhood group and its political arm the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) defended at a press conference on Tuesday their decision to nominate the group’s former deputy supreme guide and chief financier Khairat Al-Shater.
Former diplomat and presidential hopeful Abdullah Al-Asha’al declared in the same press conference his withdrawal from the presidential race and backing of Al-Shater.
“I’m not seeking power and I have never known Al-Shater or met him, but I evaluate him based on the fact that he is the candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood first and his qualifications second,” Al-Asha’al said at a press conference held at the Brotherhood headquarters.
“There is no intention to assert control,” said the head of the FJP Mohammed Morsi, which dominates both houses of parliament.
“We are only present in what has been elected … in parliament, in syndicates,” he added.
“This is the people’s will. Does anyone want to oppose the people’s will or obstruct it?” he asked.
The Brotherhood’s supreme guide, Mohamed Badie, dismissed reports that the movement had been almost evenly split on nominating Al-Shater, a millionaire businessmen who spent a total of 12 years in prison under the reign of ousted president Hosni Mubarak.
“It was a majority [that supported Al-Shater’s nomination]. And unfortunately all the numbers mentioned are wrong,” he said, referring to the Saturday vote by the movement’s consultative assembly council where Al-Shater reportedly won the endorsement of 56 but was rejected by 52 members.
“You cannot imagine the number of faxes and messages I received on my phone showing unprecedented support for this decision,” Badie said.
The conference came after one day of remarks by the group’s lawmaker Helmy El-Gazzar who floated the possibility of withdrawing Al-Shater’s candidacy bid if the ruling military junta agreed to sack the government.
But media reports quoted the group’s spokesman Mahmoud Ghozlan as saying that the group has no intention of withdrawing the Brotherhood’s bid and that no one inside the group has the right to issue statements contradicting this decision.
“I’m concerned about the future of the country and the future of the Islamic project,” veteran reformist Brotherhood leader and lawmaker Mohammed El-Beltagy said on his official Facebook page on Monday.
“It is unfair for the country and for the Brotherhood to bear the whole responsibility at this critical stage,” El-Beltagy said, adding that he had voted against the group’s decision.
Political researcher at Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies Amr Hashim Rabie told Daily News Egypt Tuesday that El-Gazzar’s remarks do not represent the official line of the group.
“El-Gazzar belongs to the opposition current inside the Brotherhood, so he definitely expresses himself only. The Brotherhood will never trade the candidacy of Al-Shater for a cabinet now,” he said.
Rabie argues that this could have been the case if the Brotherhood was negotiating with SCAF behind the scenes.
“But once the decision was made public, it is difficult to for the Brotherhood to go back on their word,” he added.
Member of the Brotherhood’s administrative office in Alexandria and member of the group’s general Shoura Council Medhat El-Haddad denied any possible scenarios of a “confrontation” with the military junta.
“A confrontation with the military is not possible because it is not part of the group’s rhetoric; and all complicated issues can be resolved peacefully,” he said in a public meeting with the group’s members in Alexandria to answer questions about Al-Shater’s presidential bid.
“Our decision to back Al-Shater was a reaction to information that there was huge US and Israeli pressure on the ruling military council not to allow the Brotherhood to hold any executive posts,” he said, accusing other political forces of feeding an atmosphere of divisions and polarization.
El-Haddad considered Article 28 of the constitutional declaration as “dangerous,” confirming that the Brotherhood is “taking its precautions against it this from now on.” –Additional reporting by Abdel Rahman Youssef from Alexandria to DNE and AFP.