Egypt Brotherhood's Candidate Previously Denied He Was Running

Video clip shows that Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood presidential candidate claimed 6 weeks ago he wouldn't be running.

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Elad Benari,

Khayrat el-Shater
Khayrat el-Shater

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood has announced it would be running a candidate for president, and has been met with criticism since doing so.

On Sunday, 24 hours after the announcement that the group’s deputy leader, Khayrat el-Shater, will be running for president of Egypt in the May 23-24 election, Arab television channels and websites began circulating a short video clip from an interview el-Shater gave to the Al-Jazeera television network and in which he denies the reports that his party intends to name a candidate for election. The interview in question took place only six weeks ago, on February 8, 2012, according to a Channel 2 News report on Sunday.

In the video clip, which shows a segment from a 50-minute interview el-Shater gave to a popular interview show on Al-Jazeera, he says that his movement will announce its position on the subject of the presidential election only after the end of the official period to register candidates for the election.

“First we’ll see who the candidates are and what their political platform is, and then we will declare our position,” Channel 2 quoted el-Shater as having said during the interview.

Interviewer Ahmed Mansour is then seen asking, “What degree of truth is there to the reports that there is a secret candidate which you will support at the last moment and who is not of the current candidates?”

El-Shater then replies, “This is not true,” and then Mansour asks, “The Washington Post newspaper described you last Saturday as pragmatic, and said that the Brotherhood will declare your candidacy for the presidential elections at the last minute.”

El-Shater then insists, “No, this is not an issue which is currently at stake.”

The Muslim Brotherhood’s announcement on Saturday came despite after it earlier pledged to stay out of the presidential race. The Brotherhood, outlawed during the regime of former President Hosni Mubarak, already controls about half of the seats in parliament.

Channel 2 reported that el-Shater’s candidacy has been criticized by radical Islamic elements in the Egyptian media, who said that the Muslim Brotherhood’s “political tradition” – that it stays out of government bodies – should be maintained.

The report noted that the same elements have also been critical of the movement's decision to participate in parliamentary elections.

Senior analysts with the local media, according to the Channel 2 report, speculated that the criticism is part of the beginning of a split and disputes within the movement.

The Muslim Brotherhood recently denied that it plans to uphold the peace treaty with Israel, after U.S. State Department Victora Nuland told said that the Muslim Brotherhood had assured Washington it would uphold extant diplomatic accords, including the 1979 Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty.

The announcement comes at the end of a week in which the Islamists' public power struggle with the country's ruling generals escalated.

On Thursday, the Muslim Brotherhood-led parliament began drawing up a no-confidence motion against the military-appointed government.

The Islamists have also been squabbling with liberal and secular groups over the commission that is to draw up the nation's new constitution. After the Brotherhood took a clear majority on the 100-member body for itself, 25 other members resigned.

Liberals fear the Islamists plan to impose their religious agenda on the constitution, while Islamists say liberals are a minority who have no popular support.

Relations between the military and the Brotherhood have deteriorated in recent weeks, as the fundamentalist group has pushed for the army to fire the Cabinet for alleged incompetence. The Brotherhood wants to form a new government, a task it claims is urgent because of Egypt's deteriorating security and economic situation.