After promising not to field a candidate for the Egyptian presidency, the Muslim Brotherhood has decided to put former prison convict Khairat al-Shater, left, on the slate for the upcoming May elections.
In 1995, Shater, 61, a wealthy businessman and engineer, was convicted by a military court under former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, and spent five years in jail for reviving the Brotherhood in Egypt. In 2007, he began serving a seven-year sentence for providing university students with arms and weapons training but was released on 2011 with many other Brotherhood members.
Since Egyptian law prohibits former convicts from serving in government office, Shater has been freed to run by Egypt’s military which has dropped “all charges and cases” against him.
Shater’s candidacy is being viewed as an interesting political development. Reuters reports that the Brotherhood would not publicly name any candidate of its own without prior clearance from the ruling military council, citing a source in the army.
However, in recent days, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, head of Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, has also been vetted as a candidate by secular factions who are against the Islamist agenda of the Brotherhood.
The ruling military leader and the Brotherhood have been at odds with each other since the Egyptian revolution, each vying for power.
In other political developments in Egypt, the Coptic Orthodox Church has withdrawn from talks on the drafting of a new constitution for the country. After the recent parliamentary elections which voted in an Islamist majority, the Christian group called their participation in the talks “pointless.”
The Copts decision follows on the heels of Egypt’s secular factions who called for a boycott of the committee that is drafting the new constitution after it became apparent that minority opinions would not be represented or respected by the Islamists.
After the deposition of Mubarak, the military became the country’s new rulers and suspended the existing constitution.
Meanwhile, the Jerusalem Post reports that a recent poll found that an overwhelming majority of Egyptians support replacing U.S. economic aid with funds from Iran or Turkey, according to new poll results, while the proportion of those viewing the treaty with Israel as positive has remained steady at just under half.
Eighty-two percent of Egyptians questioned opposed U.S. economic aid to Egypt – according to figures released this weekend by the U.S.-based Gallup polling organization – up from 71% in December 2011 and 52% last April.
In 2010, the U. S. gave $1.7 billion in aid to Egypt, with $1.3 billion earmarked for the military.