Khairat Al-Shater made his bid to be Egypt’s next president official this Thursday by submitting candidacy papers at the Presidential Election Committee headquarters in Heliopolis.
Thousands of youth rallied around Al-Shater and his family in a display of unity. They responded to accusations that a rift is growing within the upper echelons of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood by chanting, “They called us defectors, then who are we? We are the Muslim Brotherhood.” Regardless if the rift is fact or a fictional claim from the media and opposing political factions, Al-Shater’s nomination has shaken up the already turbulent Egyptian political landscape.
Al-Shater has been endorsed by The Freedom and Justice Party, the political arm of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood (MB). The MB has vowed on several occasions to not endorse or put forth any candidate for the office. Its change in policy faces condemnation within the Brotherhood itself, as well as from opposing parties.
Several MB members have spoken out against Al-Shater’s nomination, stating that fielding a candidate for president has caused the group to lose credibility.
The Freedom and Justice Party has recently allied with the Salafist Nour Party, creating a clear Islamist majority in the Egyptian Parliament. Close to 70% of Egypt’s Parliamentary seats are held by these two parties.
The drafting of Egypt’s new constitution has been marred by concerns over the party’s large majority. One quarter of the Egyptian Constitutional Committee has declined to take part in the process, stating concerns that the current committee does not represent Egypt well and that the process for choosing its members is flawed.
The FJP has offered to give up several of its seats to rival parties, but this proposal has not been accepted. The committee announced on Thursday evening that it would not allow the boycott to delay the process of drafting the constitution.
Al-Shater, a wealthy and influential businessman within Egypt, has been active in Muslim Brotherhood since 1981 and served as its Deputy Chairman up until his presidential nomination. His business empire is believed to be the main source of income for the Egyptian MB.
In March 2011, Al-Shater was released from prison, where he was serving a seven year sentence arrest for providing university students with weapons and arms training. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces dropped the charges against him, enabling his eligibility for the office of president.
Within fourteen months, the Egyptian Muslim Brother catapulted from a banned party to the dominant force in Egyptian politics. Although the MB is a political juggernaut, Al-Shater’s nomination came just weeks before the election. The fate of his bid for the presidency will be seen after the May 23 and 24 election days.