The name and face of the Muslim Brotherhood leader, businessman Khairat El-Shater, has dominated the political sphere for weeks now, and for good reason.The multimillionaire has unrivaled leverage within the organisation and its political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party, and enjoys enormous influence over the Brotherhood’s Guidance Bureau and Shura Council, the two highest bodies within the group. But what has really gripped the attention of pundits and the media have been the slew of leaks from the Brotherhood that El-Shater may be the organisations’ candidate for president, despite earlier promises that it would not be fielding a nominee. The obsession is justified. At 62 it is El-Shater, and not the Supreme Guide Mohamed Badei, who really runs the Muslim Brotherhood. Ask anyone in the organisation why the leadership is at war with Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh, one of the group’s most popular figures until he broke rank, announced his candidacy for the presidency and was immediately expelled, and the answer is El-Shater. Why did the Brotherhood punish Abul-Fotouh’s supporters within the organisation and expel those who joined his presidential campaign? Because of El-Shater. Who has been the driving force behind the Brotherhood’s tactics and public discourse since Mubarak’s ouster? It is El-muhandis – the engineer – as El-Shater likes to be called. He was, after all, once an assistant professor at El-Mansoura University’s Faculty of Engineering. Today El-Shater is at the centre of the Brotherhood’s as yet unresolved, will they, won’t they field a presidential candidate saga, and has been instrumental in pressing for a vote of no confidence in the Kamal El-Ganzouri cabinet against the military council’s wishes. It is also likely, though not certain, that El-Shater is behind the Islamist monopoly of the 100-member assembly elected by parliament to draft a new constitution. The Brotherhood’s Shura Council, the 100 plus elected body that purports to set the group’s strategies and resolve any outstanding issues, met for eight hours on 27 March yet failed to reach a decision on fielding a presidential candidate. It is scheduled to meet again next Tuesday to address itself to the same issue. Insiders, though, know it’s not the Shura Council that will ultimately take the decision, but El-Shater. El-Shater has emerged as the Brotherhood’s most powerful figure since the Nasser regime’s 1954 crack down on the group. But how?
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