Cablegate: Muslim Brotherhood to Contest Shura Elections

DE RUEHEG #1128/01 1071516
R 171516Z APR 07

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 CAIRO 001128




E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/03/2017


B. CAIRO 144
C. CAIRO 409

Classified By: Minister-Counselor for Economic and Political Affairs,
William R. Stewart, for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

1. (C) Summary: Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood (MB) has
announced it will run "no more than twenty candidates" in the
June Shura Council elections, and, despite a recent
constitutional change banning "any political activity or
political parties" based on religion, the group still plans
to campaign using its traditional slogan, "Islam is the
Solution." The MB's decision to run only twenty candidates
appears to be a deliberate effort to de-escalate tensions
with the government while simultaneously asserting the MB's
continuing role as the primary opposition to the ruling
National Democratic Party (NDP). Work seems to be continuing
on the formation of a political party (with the MB reportedly
reaching out to Copts to participate), but the announcement
of a formal platform has reportedly been delayed until after
the Shura elections. The military trials of 40 MB members,
including the MB's third-highest official, have not yet been
held; it is unclear when the tribunals will be convened.
These developments occur against the backdrop of continuing
arrests of MB members, with an estimated 130 more detained in
March and April. End Summary.


2. (SBU) Following weeks of speculation and contradictory
press reports, Mohamed Habib, Deputy Supreme Guide of the MB,
announced that the group will participate in the upcoming
Shura Council elections, but "will field no more than twenty
candidates." (Note: The GOE has not yet set the exact date
for the elections, but in private conversations, NDP
interlocutors have told us the balloting will be held
"sometime" between June 10-16. 88 seats of the 264-member
Council will be contested, and an additional 44 members
appointed by President Hosni Mubarak, in accordance with the
constitutional requirement that fifty-percent of the total
membership of the Council be renewed, either by election or
appointment, every three years. End note). In his
announcement, Habib noted that the MB was running, "due to
our belief in the importance of participating in popular and
political action ... and to seeking reform through
constitutional and legal channels." In subsequent comments
to the Associated Press (reported April 17), Habib noted that
the MB's participation "is not challenging the government as
much as emphasizing the rights of all Egyptian citizens to
participate in politics via legitimate channels." Commenting
on the MB's decision during a recent TV interview,
influential MB member Essam El-Erian noted, "By
participating with only twenty candidates, we want to deliver
a message of assurance that we do not want to rival anybody
and that all we want is reform .... We are not seeking
confrontation at all. We are working to present the reality
of our identity and ideology."

3. (C) The MB's decision to run only twenty candidates
appears to be a deliberate effort to de-escalate tensions
with the regime while simultaneously asserting the MB's
continuing role as the primary opposition to the NDP. It
suggests that, should a presidential election occur prior to
the next Shura elections in 2010, the MB will not be able to
put forward a candidate (Note: The next Egyptian presidential
race is currently scheduled for 2011. End note). According
to constitutional Article 76, in order for a non-party
candidate to run in a presidential race, he must have the
endorsement of at least 25 Shura Council members, as well as
65 members of the People's Assembly, and 140 local council
members. Even if the MB won all twenty Shura seats it will
contest (an unlikely outcome, given the expected interference
of the GOE in the voting, as well as the challenges presented
by the nature of Shura Council races, which comprise large
unwieldy districts that do not play to the MB's strengths),
it would not have the 25 Shura seats necessary to endorse a
future presidential candidate. Also noteworthy is that the
MB has chosen to contest the elections despite repeated
public assertions that ongoing GOE detentions of MB members
over the past several months have specifically targeted
several potential MB candidates. Despite those arrests, the
organization apparently believes it still has the depth and
organizational wherewithal to put forward candidates.

4. (C) Habib has also said that the MB will campaign using
its traditional slogan, "Islam is the Solution." (Note: As
reported ref A, constitutional Article 5 was recently amended
to read, "Any political activity or political parties shall
not be based on religious authority or foundation, or on any
discrimination on the basis of race or gender." Speculation
has been intense among Cairo's political analysts as to
whether the MB will be able to henceforth use their
recognizable motto, which helps voters to identify a
particular candidate as MB-affiliated, as it seemingly
contradicts Article 5. End note). Independent daily
Al-Masry Al-Yom on April 15 quoted Habib as stating that,
"The slogan 'Islam is the Solution' ... is in line with
Article 2 of the constitution, which states that Islamic
Shari'a is the main source of legislation." He is also
quoted as noting, "the Administrative Judiciary Court had
previously issued a ruling that approves this slogan; hence,
the slogan does not run counter to the constitution or the
law." Some observers have noted the apparent contradiction
between the revised Article 5 and the NDP's own liberal use
of religious slogans in the recent national referendum,
citing NDP posters such as "Your Vote is a Duty Before God,"
and the fatwa issued by the Grand Shaykh of Al-Azhar, stating
that voting in the referendum was a religious duty.


5. (SBU) The MB's plan to form a political party (ref B),
appears to have been put on the back-burner until after the
Shura elections, despite the MB's mid-January statements that
the party's draft platform would be ready "in a few weeks."
Hints of the contents of the platform are being reported in
Egypt's independent press, but have been disavowed in several
interviews by MB Supreme Guide Mohamed Mahdy Akef. Akef has
repeatedly stated that the platform is "in the final drafting
phase," and will be announced, "when we are done with it and
when the timing is suitable." Egyptian and international
Arab papers have also reported on the MB's alleged efforts to
recruit Copts to join the new party. On April 13, the
London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi reported that the MB had
"negotiated with several Coptic businessman aspiring to
political activities outside of the NDP." The article quoted
MP Hamdi Hassan, spokesman for the MB's parliamentary bloc,
as saying that, "contacts between the Brothers and the Copts
have never stopped, and historic ties bind the two sides."
Hassan was also described as anticipating a harsh government
response to this MB initiative, aimed at preventing any Copts
from joining the party, "so that the MB can be (continued) to
be depicted as a terrorist faction that deliberately denies
the other."

6. (C) Two Embassy contacts close to the MB separately told
us that Mohamed Mursi (Guidance Council member, and as head
of the MB's Political Bureau, the MB official charged with
oversight of party formation effort) undertook a regional
tour in February, visiting Morocco, Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon
and Kuwait, with the goal of assessing how Islamist parties
in other countries operate. Mursi reportedly is concerned
that, by forming a political party, the MB may dilute its
traditional focus on "Da'wa" (proselytizing) and charity
activities, potentially losing the group's long-time
successful blend of ideology and good works, and becoming
"just another opposition party."


7. (C) As reported ref C, in early February President
Mubarak transferred the cases of 40 MB members (including the
third-highest official in the MB hierarchy, Second Deputy
Chairman Khairat Al-Shatir), to military tribunals, following
a Cairo criminal court's January 29 dismissal of all charges
against sixteen of the defendants. The military trials have
not yet been held; in the interim, the defendants remain in
detention. An Embassy contact who recently visited a Cairo
military base which houses a military prison told poloff that
a courtroom facility is being built on the base, and "looks
like it should be completed soon." He assumed that the MB
military trials would be held at this installation,
inaccessible to the public and "far away from the media
spotlight." The MB has undertaken several lawsuits
(unsuccessful to date) disputing the legality of the referral
of the 40 defendants to a military tribunal. These efforts
include an appeal to the Supreme Constitutional Court (which
refused to hear the case), and a subsequent appeal to the
Administrative Court of the State Council.

8. (SBU) On April 12, the families of 36 of the detainees
sent a joint letter to Amnesty International, stating, "We
are presenting this complaint against the Egyptian government
to you, asking you to ... show this persecution and
discrimination to the whole world. We also ask you to
present this problem to the UN Human Rights Council, as it is
a complaint from persecuted individuals and a group of
Egyptian reformists that face discrimination due to their
political views." In an uncharacteristic development, recent
statements from MB officials appear to be appealing to the
international community and the USG for support regarding the
military tribunals. A March 27 statement on "Dialogue
Between Islamists and the West" by MB parliamentary bloc
leader Saad Al-Katatni noted that, "Western governments have
remained silent despite the continuous violations of human
rights by the regimes of the region. The silence that
followed the transfer of a large number of MB leaders,
including deputy chairman Al-Shatir and two other Guidance
Council members, to a military tribunal stands as a
provocative example." Recent public comments by Essam
El-Erian have been similarly critical of the USG on this
point. The detainees themselves, in a February 24 joint
public statement, stated that, "We ask that all respected and
honest citizens in Egypt, and everyone advocating justice all
over the world, to work for easing the injustice and
oppression from which the political opposition is suffering
in Egypt."


9. (SBU) Meanwhile, the government's campaign of arrests of
MB members (ref B), continues undiminished, with
approximately 130 more MB members detained in March and
April; we estimate 30 of them were subsequently released. In
another indication of the GOE's diminished tolerance of the
MB, security forces arrested prominent MB blogger Abdul
Moneim Mahmoud, proprietor of the Arabic language blog, "Ana
Ikhwan" ("I am the Brotherhood"), on April 15 as he attempted
to depart Cairo International Airport. Moneim, who is in his
late twenties and has also played an increasingly prominent
role producing the MB's influential English and Arabic
websites, had assumed a higher profile in recent months as a
result of his blog entries critical of the GOE, and because
of his key role in the MB's media outreach. A GOE prosecutor
has ordered Moneim detained for fifteen days in order to
investigate his "membership in an illegal organization and
defaming Egypt's image." Some activists in the Egyptian
blogosphere and human rights organizations appear to be
gearing up for a "Free Moneim" campaign.


10. (C) Several contacts have advised us that the MB has been
hit hard by the continuing arrests, as well as the GOE's
seizing and freezing of numerous MB assets, and is
consequently aiming to "de-escalate" MB-government tensions
by adopting a "lower profile." One independent
parliamentarian told poloff that his MB colleagues in the
People's Assembly had informed him that, "the MB's Guidance
Council sent out instructions across the country to lie low."
He noted a change in the behavior of the MB MP's who share
his countryside district: "they usually set up their own
health clinics, but this month, they came to me and asked if
they could assist with medical charity events that I was
organizing instead, so as not to attract attention."
Another contact close to the MB commented that the new
constitutional amendments have "scared" the group, noting
that the changes to constitutional Article 5 may give the GOE
legal basis to target not just the MB's political activities,
but also their NGO and charity efforts. An academic contact,
recounting a recent conversation with the MB's Habib, said
that the Deputy Supreme Guide is focused on lowering tensions
in the short-term, and protecting the long-term continuity of
the MB's array of efforts - political and otherwise; "we are
patient ... we are in no rush ... time is on our side."


© Scoop Media

World Headlines


New IPCC Report: ‘Unprecedented Changes’ Needed To Limit Global Warming

Limiting global warming to 1.5°C will require “far-reaching and unprecedented changes,” such as ditching coal for electricity to slash carbon emissions, says a special report that finds some of the actions needed are already under way, but the world must move faster… More>>


Jamal Khashoggi: UK, France, Germany Join Calls For Credible Investigation

Germany, the United Kingdom and France share the grave concern expressed by others including HRVP Mogherini and UNSG Guterres, and are treating this incident with the utmost seriousness. More>>


MSF Not Wanted: Nauru Government Shows Continued Callousness

The Nauruan Government’s decision to ask Doctors Without Borders to immediately leave shows continued callousness towards asylum seekers desperately seeking a safe place to call home, Green MP Golriz Ghahraman said today. More>>


Sulawesi Quake, Tsunami: Aid Response Begins

Oxfam and its local partners are standing by to deploy emergency staff and resources to the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, as an estimated 1.5 million people are thought to be affected by the massive earthquake and tsunami that hit on Friday. More>>


Decriminalising Same-Sex Relationships: UN Rights Chief Applauds Indian Decision

“This is a great day for India and for all those who believe in the universality of human rights," Bachelet said. "With this landmark decision, the Indian Supreme Court has taken a big step forward for freedom and equality...” More>>


  • Pacific.Scoop
  • Cafe Pacific
  • PMC