Muslim Brotherhood Egyptian Presidential Candidate Promises New Powers to Clerics

Democracy in Egypt is arriving slowly but when it does surface completely, it may have a peculiar face to it.  Religious clerics could have the power to scrutinize all laws of the land, ostensibly to make sure they conform with Islamic Shariah law.

That action is unprecedented in Egypt.  But it is what Egypt's most visible Presidential candidate, Khairat el-Shater, is promising clerics in this land of 82 million residents. Many of them will vote for the first time in a Presidential election May 23.

The Brotherhood made a similar pitch in the 2007 elections when it was still banned as a political party.  The group later withdrew its platform after running into fierce opposition.

And even late last year, while the Brotherhood was campaigning for Egypt's first post-Mubarak parliament elections, it was silent on a proposal to give clerics an insider position on government strategy.

The Brotherhood even promised, at one stage, not to run a Presidential candidate, but only to remain on the sidelines, ostensibly to help Egypt become a more democratic state.

El-Shater's pitch to the clerics is a sham, of course. He wants to lock up the religious vote, even though the Muslim Brotherhood currently already controls just under 50 percent of the seats in parliament, making them Egypt's strongest fundamentalist group.

The Salafis, movement is the next strongest party, with about a 20 percent presence in parliament. The Salafis is the most hard-line religious movement in Egypt today.

The Brotherhood has made other promises before to Egyptian voters and then reneged on them. , Brotherhood leaders have insisted throughout the campaign that implementing Shariah law in Egypt is not their immediate priority. Salafis, however, are more assertive on making all laws of the land adhere to Shariah law.

By offering clerks a voice in the government, El-Shater hopes to avert a split in the votes of religious conservatives.  Several other Islamists are also running for the top post. Among them is Hazem Abu Ismail. He has strong support among Salafis.

El-Shater's proposal came after meeting with a panel of Salafi scholars and clerics. The clerics call themselves the Jurisprudence Commission for Rights and Reform,

The group disclosed El-Shater's pitch on a posting on its Facebook page.

The commission, comprised of diverse parties and loyalties, was created after last year's uprising against President Hosni Mubarak.  It was set up to represent Islamic factions, mostly Salafis, though the Brotherhood is also represented.

Waiting in the wings is the Egyptian military which still oversees the country.  The military has no desire to rule Egypt - only to side with the winning Presidential candidate.  That will ensure their lifetime pensions and huge real estate holdings will remain intact.


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