Mohamed Morsi, the group's official but less-than-ideal candidate for the Egyptian presidency, poses them with an existential challenge.
CAIRO, Egypt -- When the Muslim Brotherhood announced that Mohamed Morsi would be its candidate for president, the Egyptian press had a field day. Morsi was an accident of history, the "substitute" candidate after a state election agency disqualified the Brotherhood's first choice, lanky millionaire financier Khairat al-Shater. Morsi was, correctly, charged with lacking the same charisma or crossover appeal. Many analysts wrote the Brotherhood off. They couldn't imagine someone like Morsi getting to the second round of elections, much less winning.
But the Brotherhood seems to think victory is within reach. Though burdened with a weak candidate, the group's members have fanned
across the country, promoting Morsi's so-called "renaissance" project. On Sunday
night, the Brotherhood, in its latest show of strength, held 24 simultaneous
mass rallies across the country.
I asked a young Brotherhood activist if he was enthusiastic about Morsi. He smiled, then laughed. A significant but small minority of Brotherhood youth are supporting "liberal Islamist" Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh. But he wasn't, at least not yet. For him, this was not about any Obama-esque belief in post-partisanship or finding the "best" candidate. "This is about the preservation of the Brotherhood," he told me matter of factly. The Brotherhood's loyalists are treating this as an existential moment, in part because it is.