The Muslim Brotherhood is eyeing the total domination of Egyptian politics after breaking a key post-revolution pledge and putting forward a candidate for next month's presidential elections.
Leaders of the once-banned organisation, which enjoys widespread grassroots support and already controls nearly 50 per cent of seats in parliament, said categorically last year that there would be no official Muslim Brotherhood candidate in next month's poll.
The move was designed to assuage opponents who feared the organisation's considerable might would translate into political hegemony. But at a press conference over the weekend, officials from the Brotherhood's political wing announced the candidacy of Khayrat el-Shater, a multi-millionaire businessman, deputy to the Supreme Guide and a man described as the power behind the Brotherhood's throne.
It marks a startling volte face for the Islamic organisation, and has placed its leadership on a collision course with liberal, secular and Christian groups who see the move as a cynical power grab and yet further evidence of Muslim Brotherhood duplicity.
"This is one of the cards they always had," said Shaheer George, a key figure in the liberal Freedom Egypt Party.
Last month the Brotherhood was catching considerable flak after a slew of resignations from the committee drafting a new constitution. Leftist and liberal parties withdrew their members, while even Al-Azhar University – the ancient seat of Sunni Muslim learning – felt compelled to call back its representative over concerns about the excessive influence of Islamist MPs and civilian specialists.
Given the Brotherhood's deeply entrenched networks of political influence, Mr El-Shater – a 62-year-old who also served time in jail under Mubarak but was released following last year's uprising – looks likely to become the frontrunner for next month's presidential election.
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