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EGYPT: Conservatives take over Muslim Brotherhood guidance bureau

December 22, 2009 | 11:25 pm

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 Hard-liners and conservatives have taken wider control of the Muslim Brotherhood following elections this week to the group's guidance bureau, or executive board.      

Supreme leader Mohamed Mahdi Akef has announced that the elections saw both Mohamed Habib (who is also Akef's first deputy) and Abdul Monem Aboul Fetouh lose their seats on the 16-member board. Habib and Aboul Fetouh are considered to be among the most influential moderates and reformers, who make up a minority of the Brotherhood's ranks.

Brotherhood reformers have long been calling for positive interaction with the Egyptian government as well as with the U.S. and other Western powers. They have demanded the adoption of more tolerant policies toward women and non-Muslims, seeking a notable role in the country's social and political climate without confrontations with the regime of President Hosni Mubarak.

While the axing of reformists has frustrated the Brotherhood's younger members, who issued a statement announcing their rejection of the results, pundits have said that the current division could lead to the demise of Egypt's largest religious group. The Brotherhood is banned as a political party, but its members, who run as independents, make up 20% of parliament.

"What is happening now is a coup against reformists, and this was planned a few years ago," says researcher and Muslim Brotherhood insider Abdul Rehim Aly. "We are witnessing the countdown for the Brotherhood's existence. Hard-liners simply couldn’t accept the presence of reformers within the group itself, so how can anyone expect them to one day have a dialogue with other people belonging to different religious and cultural backgrounds?"

Analyst Deyaa Rashwan agrees that the taking over by the right wing may result in the Brotherhood moving away from politics: "The new governing body is likely to focus on social and religious grass-roots work, and I think that the elections' results signal the immediate regression of political activity of the group in the coming period," he said.

The current conflict within the organization is expected to shrink the group's chance of gaining more seats in the 2010 parliamentary elections. Egyptian media reports suggest that the turmoil will force the Brotherhood to elect a new supreme leader in coming days. Akef, who stressed that he won't be running for another term, will officially step down next month.

-- Amro Hassan in Cairo

Photo: Muslim Brotherhood supreme leader Mohamed Mahdi Akef. Credit: Tarek Mostafa / Reuters

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