Egypt Gains New Political Party as Two Largest Groups Squabble
April 29, 2012
Mohamed El Baradei is back in the spotlight, as the leader of a new Egyptian political party, even as the country's two most powerful Islamist groups struggle for control of the new government.
The recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, El Baradei was a key figure in the revolution that turned out former President Hosni Mubarak after decades of authoritarian rule. But once a new governmental process was set up, El Baradei ruled himself out of the presidential race, insisting that a fair vote would not be possible.
Egyptians will vote for president en masse on May 23-24, with the winner to be in place on June 21, in time for the ruling military council to hand over power.
A large number of people are running for president, although the number got a bit smaller last week when the federal election commission disqualified 10 candidates, including three who were considered front-runners.
The deadline for entering this year's presidential race has passed, and El Baradei is not seeking that office this time around. He emphasized that the political party was just getting organized and would still need to be officially registered and would not be operational for a few months.
Still, his announcement gives hope to a large number of moderates who have seen their struggle to get rid of Mubarak turn into disaffection with the current ruling generals and then with the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafis, Islamist groups who won the majority of seats in both houses of parliament in recent elections.
One of the 10 presidential candidates recently disqualified was Hazem Salah Abu Ismail, the preferred candidate of the Salafi party, whose members believe in a more conservative interpretation of Islamic law and its relation to political laws than do the Muslim Brotherhood and other groups. The Salafis now say that they will support Abdel Moneim Abol Fotouh, a former member of the Brotherhood who announced his presidential candidacy several months ago when the Brotherhood was not putting forward its own candidate.
The Brotherhood's preferred candidate, Khairat el-Shater, was disqualified along with. The Brotherhood's backup candidate, Mohamed Mursi, had been counting on Salafi support.
Similar disputes between the two major groups has also hampered the writing of a new constitution.
Other candidates expected to do well are Amr Moussa, the former head of the Arab League, and Ahmed Shafiq, who was the last prime minister under Mubarak.