The whole cake
The announcement that the Muslim Brotherhood will field a candidate for president has sent shockwaves across Egypt and beyond. When the vote is held next month, should former deputy MB leader Khairat El-Shater become president, it would mean the country has become a near de facto Islamist state, something that millions of Egyptians want yet millions of Egyptians fear.
El-Shater as president would culminate what can only be described as an Islamist takeover of Egypt and cap for the Brotherhood a remarkable, unbelievable transformation in just over a year from an outlawed group to political kingpins ruling the country. Elections late last year and early this year awarded the Brotherhood a majority hold on the lower and upper houses. They also have a firm grip on the 100-member constituent assembly tasked with drafting the constitution. And only the ruling military stands in their way of dissolving what they see as an incapable Cabinet and inserting new, Islamist ministers, starting with the premier.
This wholesale amassing of power could lead to a repeat of the Hosni Mubarak-era domination by a single party of all executive and legislative branches -- only now with an Islamist hue.
At play as well is where the loyalties of Islamists lay. The parliament, Shura Council and constituent assembly are all headed by Islamists who pledge their allegiance to the country's national interests and to the Brotherhood's supreme guide, Mohamed Badie, but not necessarily in that order.
And now, for the icing on the Egyptian cake, the MB is eyeing the presidency itself. Despite the clout the MB has at the ballot box as was shown so conclusively in the parliamentary elections, there is no guarantee that El-Shater will be Egypt's next president. There is no one frontrunner in a field becoming increasingly crowded. He has also entered the fray late and as such might not enjoy the name recognition as some of his opponents who have been on the campaign trail for months. El-Shater is also seen by many as a politically unqualified businessman tycoon, not dissimilar from those who ran the Mubarak government and who plundered the country at will and at length.
Regardless of El-Shater's chances, his candidacy is a huge U- turn by the MB which pledged not to field a candidate for president in a bid to allay fears in the country and abroad over a total Islamist hegemony. The Brotherhood has defended its decision to enter one of its members, pointing to its frustration of seeing its efforts to have the current government sacked. However, most people are not buying the explanation, preferring instead to describe El-Shater's candidacy as the final stage of a blatant monopoly on power. In the new Egypt, the Brotherhood at first exercised caution, repeatedly saying it did not want to monopolise political institutions. But their overwhelming parliamentary victory emboldened them to the point of overconfidence. After exhibiting stoic patience for over 80 years under successive, repressive governments, their ambition is starting to show.
The decision to nominate El-Shater is a seismic shift in positions; it could also be a strategic blunder.
The MB lost much credibility after saying one thing so many times, then doing the exact opposite. In consequence, its sincerity has been damaged and it is in danger of not being believed in future. Perhaps most detrimental to the Brotherhood is that its true colours have been revealed, shoving away national patriotism for a not too discreet power grab.
Judging by the current public mood, a possible institutionalised Islamist state is what is desired and what is dreaded. The two camps will ultimately have their say in what is becoming a fateful presidential election.