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EGYPT: Former Muslim Brotherhood leader slams hardline power grab

January 6, 2010 |  9:23 am

RHardliners are angling hard to maintain their grip on Egypt's most prominent Islamist political party and prevent moderates from gaining influence in the group.

The former deputy to the Muslim Brotherhood's supreme leader, Mohamed Habib, has blasted the manner in which the group has voted for its new so-called guidance bureau, as well as the ongoing elections for choosing the Islamic political party's new chief.

The brotherhood's unscheduled elections last month saw Habib lose his seat at the guidance bureau in a ballot that was considered by analysts  a successful attempt to purge reformists from the bureau and the whole group.

A few days later, Habib said he was further exasperated upon finding that he was similarly axed from a shortlist of candidates running for the new supreme guide's position. He stepped down from his post immediately Dec. 31.

"Both the timing and the procedures of the elections were totally against the group's administrative system," Habib told daily newspaper Al Masry Al Youm. "I made this clear to all members as well as the supreme guide. I even suggested how we can pursue the elections in a better way, but no one was willing to listen."

Elections for the guidance bureau were previously planned for next summer, right after a convention for the group's counseling bureau, which is responsible for setting the brotherhood's main code of regulations. The timing of the new elections was decided as current supreme leader Mohamed Mahdi Akef sought to maintain his political influence before his term ends this month.

Akef, who took over the brotherhood's leadership in 2004, announced that he won't be prolonging his reign after Jan. 13, and Habib maintained that the brotherhood shouldn’t have called for premature elections for the supreme guide post.

"The counseling bureau should name a list of candidates at least one month before any crucial elections like these. But what happened was that the council was asked to send a list within two weeks. The whole thing was an unnecessary and dangerous rush," he said.

Habib is convinced that conservative figures from the brotherhood wouldn’t have accepted a moderate candidate like himself to be the next supreme guide.

"Someone like me believes that the group has to balance between three main tasks: education, advocacy and politics. And we have to engage with other political powers in order to work on those aspects in the very best way," he said. 

"Others want to isolate the group within itself, and I believe this will have many negative consequences on the future and existence of the brotherhood. It is exactly what the authorities and regime want to limit our political and social influence."

In the 2005 parliamentary elections, the Muslim Brotherhood  unexpectedly secured 88 seats to form the largest opposition bloc in the Egyptian people's assembly. The group's current turmoil and Habib's resignation are expected to hamper their chances in April parliamentary elections.

-- Amro Hassan in Cairo

Photo: Mohamed Habib. Credit: Reuters

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