Monday, 16 April 2012

Egypt: Arrival of Omar Suleiman in presidential race is a double-edged sword

The juggernaut that is the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) appears to have been halted, at least temporarily, in what seemed its unstoppable journey to assume control of the two main centres of political power: the presidency and the parliament. They remain on course to achieve this goal but their previously irresistible progress has met a few obstacles.

Most critical is the suspension of the constituent assembly. The Brotherhood got greedy and tried to dominate the body. The courts have not given the reasons for their decision but the result is that there is a setback to the timetable.

The arrival in the presidential race of Omar Suleiman is a double-edged sword. He is a credible candidate of the old guard. He will appeal to those masses who feel that the economy and security have gone to the dogs. But he is also a useful whipping boy for the others.

One of the challenges for the Islamists is that they have defined themselves more by opposition to the old regime, by saying what they do not believe in, than by clearly articulating what they do stand for.

The two main candidates have something in common. Both operated in the shadows. And for all Khairat al-Shater's criticism of Omar Suleiman, the Brotherhood has a history. Indeed, in the early days of what has become known as the Egyptian revolution, Suleiman asked the opposition political parties to sit with him for a dialogue. All refused - except for the MB. The party is nothing if not pragmatic, but its double talk has eroded popular trust in its credibility.

For more news and expert analysis about Egypt, please see Egypt Politics & Security.

© 2012 Menas Associates

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