Notwithstanding the official Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood's promise not to seek the presidency or any other positions of power, Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, 60, member of the MB's Shura Council and head of the Egyptian Doctors' Union, has announced he would run for president in Egypt's coming election.
He claimed he would be running as an "independent," but no one doubts whom he represents.
April 29, DEBKA-Net-Weekly 490 revealed that Fotouh was MB's presidential candidate, the first publication to do so.
Recently discovered by the American media, the contender is depicted as a progressive and moderate Muslim figure whose views on equal rights for women and non-Muslims should lay to rest Western fears of the Muslim Brotherhood as a radical movement.
debkafile's sources report that Fotouh's decision to stand for election has persuaded Egypt's military rulers to back off from running one of their own or a secular contender against him. The Chairman of the Supreme Military Council Field Marshall Muhammad Tantawi and his fellow (25) members are inclined to wind up their transitional tenure by organizing orderly elections to parliament and the presidency in the coming months, handing over the reins of government, quitting politics and returning to their military duties.
This is bad news for Israel, which has maintained amicable ties with Egypt's military and intelligence authorities for many years in contrast to the hostility it has encountered in Cairo's political and religious circles.
The Muslim Brotherhood was encouraged in its power bid by the March 19 referendum on constitutional changes held after Hosni Mubarak's fall. More than 14 million Egyptians, 77 percent of its participants, favored the Brotherhood's demand for changes against only 4 million (23 percent) who did not. The ayes proved to represent a large proportion of members of the MB and allied Islamic parties. Its leaders were convinced that that a moderate candidate for president would draw even more substantial support.
The liberal and democratic parties which led the Tahrir Square movement against Mubarak were shocked when tests run by the public opinion experts they hired confirmed this finding. They were forced to accept that full democracy in Egypt would raise the Muslims to the center of power with a majority in parliament and a better-than-good chance of winning the presidency and virtually eclipsing them as a force in Egyptian politics.
On Feb. 9, two days before Hosni Mubarak stepped down, Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh wrote in an article run by the Washington Post:
"Contrary to fear-mongering reports, the West and the Muslim Brotherhood are not enemies. For Muslims, ideological differences with others are taught not to be the root cause of violence and bloodshed because a human being's freedom to decide how to lead his or her personal life is an inviolable right found in basic Islamic tenets, as well as Western tradition. Our track record of responsibility and moderation is a hallmark of our political credentials and we will build on it."
Our Middle East sources detect in those words echoes of the sentiments heard in the speech US President Barack Obama delivered at Cairo University in June 2009 about the common basis for a new relationship between America and the Muslim world.
Then, on Feb. 22, 2011, two days after the Mubarak regime was overthrown, the Muslim Brotherhood announced: "It's not our aim to take power, it is just to participate."
debkafile reports that the MB issued this assurance to allay Western fears of a Muslim grab for power in Cairo. But on the quiet, in the second week of April, the Brotherhood leaders picked Fotouh as their candidate for future president of Egypt.
He is depicted as devoting himself in recent years to promoting liberal ideas within the Muslim movement, having published books and articles urging its members to accept the opening of the presidency to women and Coptic Christians.
Towards the end of 2009, Fotouh and other moderates were suspended from the Muslim Brotherhood's leadership bodies. However, since his run for president was announced, it turns out that he enjoys high standing in its ranks. His reputation was certainly enhanced by the book he published in March 2010: A Witness to the History of Egypt's Islamic Movement, in which he made a prediction which looked wholly unrealistic at the time that in the coming moment in the movement's history, thousands of Egyptian students would join a relatively moderate Muslim Brotherhood.
Today, he is credited with extraordinary foresight.