Could the Muslim Brotherhood Win Egypt's Presidency?

The group says it will not run a candidate, but long-time member Abdel Moneim Abul Futouh announced his run as an independent. How would he lead?


Georgia Wells

Though the Muslim Brotherhood will not appoint a candidate, Egypt's first freely elected president could be a prominent member of the once outlawed group: Dr. Abdel Moneim Abul Futouh. Although technically running as an independent and not formally allied with any party, including the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice party, he is nonetheless perceived by many Egyptians as part of a Muslim Brotherhood juggernaut on its way to dominating Parliament and possibly capturing the presidency in Egypt's fall elections.

With this announcement, he joins fellow presumed front-runners Amr Moussa, former secretary general of the Arab League, as well as law scholar, Nobel laureate, and former head of the International Atomic Energy Mohamed el Baradei, favored by more secular activists.

But Adul Futouh is not exactly like his peers in the Muslim Brotherhood. Contrasting with the Brotherhood's more conservative mix of religion and politics, the urbane and eloquent Abul Futouh is comfortable with the new language of democracy.

The Democracy Report When we met with him in his expansive office in the Dar el Hikma Doctors Syndicate building three days before his May 12 presidential announcement, he served tea and referenced the U.S. Bill of Rights, citing its language to gently scold U.S. foreign policy in his country.

"We have never been able to understand how the U.S. -- founded on, believing in and holding such respect for human rights -- could support and protect such a repressive and violent regime as Mubarak's."

Thirty years of corruption, he adds, "has had terrible consequences for the economic, cultural and social development of the country." In contrast to Mubarak's rule, "the new Egyptian government will be based on constitutional law and stand on respect for human rights, equality between men and women, and independence of the judiciary."

Many activists regard the highly respected head of the Arab Doctors Syndicate Abul Futouh, 59, as the pretty face of the Muslim Brotherhood.

"He is the best the Brotherhood has," said Nawla Darwiche, president of women's rights organization the New Woman Foundation, about the moderate politician. "But," she added, "they're all liars," referring to the group's repeated revisions of their stated political ambitions in the upcoming elections.

Abul Futouh himself wrote of the group's intentions three months ago in The Washington Post, "We are compelled to unequivocally deny any attempt to usurp the will of the people. Nor do we plan to surreptitiously dominate a post-Mubarak government. The Brotherhood has already decided not to field a candidate for president in any forthcoming election."

He draws a fine line in claiming that, as a founding and 25-year member of the group's executive council (since resigned), his run as an independent will have no associations with the Muslim Brotherhood.

Despite restrictions on their political activity, and due in part to Mubarak's willingness to let them stand as one of the few tolerated opposition parties, the Brotherhood did moderately well under his reign, winning 20 percent of Parliament as independents in the 2005 elections. They have earned their political support in part as a social service organization, filling in where the state has failed: providing food, medicine, and education to many of the country's rural poor.

Even some of the group's political competitors suggest their critics should relax. Amr Moussa, who leads the field of presidential contenders, told Reuters in March, "We have to move away the principal of rejecting the Brotherhood or any other group. Leave it to the people to choose who they want."

Presented by

Colleen Gillard & Georgia Wells

Colleen Gillard & Georgia Wells are a mother/daughter team covering Egypt after the revolution. They blog at Egypt Unplugged.

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