EGYPT: New leader won't advance Muslim Brotherhood on political stage, critics say
The new leader of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood is a conservative ideologue not likely to challenge the government of President Hosni Mubarak. The election of Mohammed Badie to the post of supreme guide is viewed by analysts as an indication that the brotherhood's old guard wants to concentrate more on religion than on expanding the group's political influence.
"Badie is not involved in public work. He is part of the ideological strand, and this is one of the two causes for the regression of the brotherhood's political work. The second is intense government pressures," said political Islam expert Deyaa Rashwan.
Despite being politically banned, the brotherhood, whose members run as independents, is the largest opposition bloc in the Egyptian people's assembly since winning 20% of the parliamentary seats in the 2005 elections.
However, many believe the domination of conservatives, as well as the continuous detention of hundreds of its members by authorities over the last year, will hamper the brotherhood's chances of maintaining an effective presence in parliament. Egypt's next parliamentary elections will be held in April.
"With such a conservative leadership in place, the brotherhood no longer has the power to inspire Egyptian society politically at the grassroots level," says political analyst Khalil El Anani.
Badie, who will succeed Mohammed Mahdi Akef, is not well known. He became a member of the organization's politburo following heated internal elections last month, which saw prominent reformers Mohammed Habib and Abdul Monem Aboul Fetouh lose their seats as a majority of conservatives took over the bureau. Habib, who was also the supreme leader's deputy, later resigned after his name was omitted from an initial list of candidates running for the leadership post.
Like many of his counterparts, Badie is one of the brotherhood's members who were jailed for nine years during the 1960s after being charged with belonging to a paramilitary group allegedly aiming to overthrow former President Gamal Abdel Nasser's regime.
He has kept a low profile since his release in the 1970s, stressing ideological education within the group. According to some Egyptian newspaper reports, a number of brotherhood members were not in favor of Badie's appointment as their leader, citing a lack of charisma and presence.
Badie will be the group's eighth supreme guide since its formation in 1928.
-- Amro Hassan in Cairo
Photo: Muslim Brotherhood's newly elected supreme guide, Mohammed Badie. Credit: Asmaa Waguih / Reuters