CAIRO — The Muslim Brotherhood nominated its chief strategist and financier Khairat el-Shater on Saturday as its candidate to become Egypt’s first president since Hosni Mubarak, breaking a pledge not to seek the top office and a monopoly on power. Mr. Shater, 62, a millionaire business tycoon, was a political prisoner until just a year ago.
Because of the Brotherhood’s unrivaled grass-roots organization and popular appeal, he is now a presidential front-runner.
He is being nominated at a moment of escalating tension between the Brotherhood and Egypt’s military rulers.
The Brotherhood, an Islamist group outlawed under Mr. Mubarak, already dominates the Parliament and the assembly writing a new Constitution. It is now demanding to replace the military-led cabinet and is tussling with the military council over questions like the degree of civilian oversight of the military under the new charter.
His candidacy is likely to unnerve the West and has already outraged Egyptian liberals, who wonder what other pledges of moderation the Brotherhood may abandon.
The Brotherhood’s entry into the race also turns the election into a debate over the future of the Islamist political movement that is sure to resonate in the region. Mr. Shater faces Islamist rivals to his left and right — one a more liberal former Brotherhood leader, the other an ultraconservative Salafist. Indeed, the Brotherhood may have entered the race in part because a strong showing by either rival could undercut the group’s authority as the predominant voice of Islam in Egyptian politics.
Doubts about the strength of the Brotherhood’s commitment to its promises raise particular concerns in the United States and Israel, which considered the Mubarak government’s commitment to the peace agreement a linchpin of regional stability.
An Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, declined to comment specifically on Mr. Shater, but called the nomination worrisome. “Obviously this is not good news,” the official said. “The Muslim Brotherhood is no friend of Israel’s. They do not wish us well.” The official added: “The big question will be how pragmatic they will be once in power. It could go in either direction.” (Full article at NYT)