CAIRO – A senior member of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood unveiled a bid on Thursday, May 12, to run for the country’s presidential elections.
"I will run as an independent candidate in the coming presidential elections,” Abdel-Moneim Abul-Futuh told Reuters.
“I am not a member of any party now."
A doctor by profession, Abul-Futuh, 60, is currently secretary-general of the Arab Doctors Union.
He holds an MA in hospital management and an LLM from Cairo University's Faculty of Law.
Abul-Futuh is a member of the Brotherhood’s Shura Council, but not the 16-member governing body.
By unveiling his presidential bid, Abul-Futuh will join a long list of candidates for Egypt’s top post.
Leading among presidential hopefuls are outgoing Arab League chief Amr Moussa and former chief of the UN nuclear watchdog Mohamed ElBaradei.
A poll published on April 22 in the state-run Ahram newspaper showed Abul-Futuh and Moussa, with the highest voter support at 20 percent, while ElBaradei had 12 percent support.
Abul-Futuh said his decision to run for president does not mean the opposition group is seeking Egypt’s presidency.
"The Brotherhood as a group is not competing for the presidency and is now separating its mandates, a move I had called for four years ago," he said, in reference to the group’s new “Justice and Freedom” party.
The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s most powerful opposition group, has said it will not field candidates in the coming presidential elections.
The group has also said that it would not pursue a majority in September parliamentary polls, contesting only 50 percent of seats.
Under toppled president Hosni Mubarak, the Muslim Brotherhood was officially banned but tolerated within limits with the government using military trials and security sweeps to repress the group.
However, the group kept a broad, grassroots network through social and other charity work.
"The Brotherhood will get around 25 percent of seats in the new parliament and there'll be no more protest votes going its way now the wheel of democracy is rolling," said Abul-Futuh.
Decades of rigged elections make it difficult to gauge the Brotherhood's popularity.
It won 20 percent of the seats in a 2005 parliamentary election, despite rigging. The group boycotted the 2010 poll.
Abul-Futuh insisted that his decision to run for president did not breach the Brotherhood's rules.
He said the group would focus on social activities and leave politics to the newly set up "Freedom and Justice" party, which Abul-Futuh has not joined.
"From now on, the Brotherhood will only function as a lobby group. It will not enter politics because that is now the job of the 'Freedom and Justice' party, which is separate from the group."
A senior Brotherhood member said Abul-Futuh's decision was personal and the group would not back his candidacy.
"Abul-Futuh's decision counters the Brotherhood's official decision," said Sobhi Saleh, a leading Brotherhood member in Alexandria.
Abul-Futuh said he would be able to heal divisions between Egypt’s Muslims and Christian Copts.
"Such sectarian strife makes me more determined to pursue the presidency,” he told Reuters.
“As elements of religious extremism creep up in the transition period, the country needs someone who is best connected to the Muslim, Christian and liberal sides of the political spectrum."
At least 15 people were killed and over 200 injured late Saturday in deadly clashes between Muslims and Christian Copts in the Cairo suburb of Imbaba.
The clashes erupted after rumor that a female Muslim convert was being held inside a church in the area.
A report by fact-finding commission has blamed the deadly clashes on the remnants of toppled president Mubarak’s regime.
Abul-Futuh said Egyptians, not any Western fears, would determine Egypt's future.
"Now that Egyptians have retrieved their country which was stolen from them, no one but they can determine their future,” he said.
Egypt's military rulers have promised a swift handover to civilian rule.
The presidential and parliamentary votes will be watched closely in the region and the West to see how the Arab world's most populous nation makes the transition to democracy.
“Egyptians will determine who leads them and no foreign pressure can say who leads the new Egypt,” Abul-Futuh said."What is needed are good bilateral relations with international sides. But the West will not rule us."
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