Conservative stranglehold

Conservative stranglehold
The name of the Muslim Brotherhood’s new supreme guide is due to be announced on Saturday. Informed sources say Mahdi Akef, 81, whose term as head of the outlawed group ended, will announce who is to succeed him at a press conference on Saturday.
Three members of the group’s conservative wing — Mohamed Badei, Rashad El-Bayoumi and Gomaa Amin — competed for the post. Sources say Badei is most likely to become the next supreme guide, having won 66 out of total 100 possible votes on the group’s Shura Council. His seemingly clear cut victory has been undermined by the support El-Bayoumi, 75, secured from the group’s international affiliates.
Akef and Badei have been close friends for many years. Both are devotees of the teachings of the group’s theoretician Sayed Qotb, the founder of Islamist Jihadism who called upon rulers to revive the Islamic caliphate and who was executed in 1965.
Badei, 67, has been a permanent member of the Brotherhood’s executive board since 1993. An associate professor of pathology at Beni Sweif University’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, he was born on 7 August 1943 in the industrial Delta city of Mahala Al-Kobra. Badei joined Cairo University’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in 1960. He was appointed a lecturer at Assiut University’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in 1965 and almost immediately arrested. Sentenced to 15 years in jail, he was released in 1974 as part of a deal between president Anwar El-Sadat and the group.
Brotherhood officials indicate that Badei, who will most likely take over on Saturday, will chair the first meeting of the group’s newly-elected executive board on Wednesday. The meeting will select the supreme guide’s two deputies and set out the responsibilities of each member of the executive. Akef’s second deputy Khairat El-Shater, who is serving five years in jail, is automatically entitled to retain his post under the Brotherhood’s internal rules.
Bayoumi is strongly tipped to be appointed Badei’s first deputy. Born in the Upper Egyptian city of Sohag and now an associate professor of geology at Cairo University, Bayoumi was arrested in 1954 after a Brotherhood plot to assassinate president Gamal Abdel-Nasser was uncovered. He has been a member of the Guidance Bureau since 1995.
Gomaa Amin, who also competed for the post, is the Brotherhood’s official historian.
Brotherhood sources say Mahmoud Ezzat, 66, will remain secretary-general of the MB, a post he has held for 15 years. Ezzat, who is a graduate of Cairo University’s Faculty of Medicine, belongs to the faction of hardliners within the group who engineered last month’s internal coup against reformist members.
Analysts agree that the choice of a hardline conservative as the Brotherhood’s new supreme guide is the final nail in the coffin of reformists’ hopes to integrate the group into mainstream politics.
On 27 December the Brotherhood’s Shura council elected a new board, with conservative leaders sweeping the polls. The election was marked by disputes with Mohamed Habib, Akef’s first deputy, arguing that the vote contravened the Brotherhood’s internal rules. Habib resigned from office on 31 December, launching a scathing attack against Akef, whom he accused of ordering Guidance Bureau elections to be held without first consulting with the group’s leading members. Habib has also accused Akef of interfering in the election of his successor.
“Article 16 of the Brotherhood’s internal regulations states that once the post of the supreme guide becomes vacant his first deputy should take over until an election is held within 30 days,” says Habib. He describes the choice of the new guide “as a result of selection rather than election”.
Fathi Lashin, the Brotherhood’s legal adviser, argues that “Article 15 gives the supreme guide the right to call for the election of his successor”.
The 82-year-old group is now completely controlled by hardline conservatives, say commentators. Hussein Abdel-Razek, a political analyst with the leftist Tagammu Party, argues that the dominance of the conservative “Qotbist” — who are devoted to the teachings of the group’s theoretician Sayed Qotb who was executed in 1965 — faction within the Brotherhood represents a setback for political life in Egypt since they seek to revive the Islamist caliphate and make their version of Islam the sole reference for all Muslims.
“Many Egyptian politicians were in favour of giving the Brotherhood more space in politics in the hope it could democratise its performance and modernise its beliefs,” says Abdel-Razek. “Now, with conservative Qotbists dominating, there is no hope that Egypt will see a democratic Islamist party like the ruling Justice and Development Party in Turkey emerging anytime soon.”