Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat- A division has taken place within the Muslim Brotherhood organization due to the elections for the Supreme Guide and Guidance Office, which sources within the group said had begun in secret last Thursday and continued until late last night. After Muslim Brotherhood Deputy Leader Dr. Mohamed Habib announced his uncertainty with regards to the legality of these elections, Supreme Guide Mahdi Akif asserted to Asharq Al-Awsat that these elections are 100 percent sound.
The Muslim Brotherhood parliamentary bloc intervened yesterday to put pressure to end the differences that have been taking place between the current Supreme Guide Mahdi Akif and his deputy Dr. Habib who speculation indicated was set to succeed Akif to the post of Supreme Guide.
A delegation from the Muslim Brotherhood parliamentary bloc met with Dr. Habib, before his appearance on the Al-Jazeera television channel on Sunday to “uncover what is going on with regards to the elections that he [Habib] sees as a violation of the [electoral] regulations and system of the group” according to sources. However Mahdi Akif claims that these elections are 100 percent sound.
For his part, Dr. Mohamed Habib told Asharq Al-Awsat “Yes, I received a delegation from the Muslim Brotherhood bloc in parliament, requesting that I do not appear on the channel (Al-Jazeera) and they put pressure on me in all ways and means to intervene and consider what can be done [to resolve this division].”
Habib revealed that he stipulated two things to the Muslim Brotherhood parliamentary delegation “Firstly that the special procedures for the electoral process be halted, and secondly that the Muslim Brotherhood sits down with the Supreme Guide [Mahdi Akif], the brothers who are members of the Guidance Office, and the Deputy leader [Habib himself] to come to an agreement on a single position with regards to what needs to be done.”
Habib added “I propose that we postpone any talks [regarding the elections] until we agree on certain issues.”
Mahdi Akif’s term as Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide is scheduled to end on 13 January 2010. Akif, 81-years old, announced that he would not be standing for a second term in office following the end of his first term that began in 2004. Muslim Brotherhood sources have revealed that the 115-member [Muslim Brotherhood] Shura Council which represents all governorates of Egypt began a secret vote on Thursday to elect their next leader and new members of the Guidance Office, with the body overseeing the elections traveling between all governorates in order to hold the elections, sending the votes back to Cairo for counting.
Sources within the Muslim Brotherhood said that the Shura Council are not meeting in once place in order to hold these elections for fear of being arrested by the authorities as the Muslim Brotherhood is considered to be a “banned group” in Egypt, and “a group that uses religion as a cover for political operations.”
The sources also pointed out that this division in the Muslim Brotherhood is between the conservative trend and the reformist trend, with the reformists calling for more flexibility in the group’s political operations. Those close to Dr. Habib said that his objection to the elections is due to the fact that this has been called for by Mahdi Akif, rather than the Guidance Office “who are responsible for calling for elections” and that these elections are being rushed, especially as some Shura Council members are absent [from the voting] due to illness or because they are in prison.
Since Akif announced his intention to step down as Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood speculation has been rife that Dr. Habib is set to be the next Muslim Brotherhood leader. Habib was quoted by Reuters as saying “The objective of holding the elections with this hastiness is to establish one group against another group, and not just to exclude me personally, but also to infringe upon the rights of the Guidance Office.”
However sources within the Muslim Brotherhood clarified that Habib did not take part in the elections for the Supreme Guide and Guidance Office, and that he has called for the validity of such elections to be examined, even if a legal committee is needed to be formed for this purpose. The sources said that Habib believes that the current Supreme Guide “started the election process himself.”
Answering a question by Asharq Al-Awsat, Akif said “Let Habib say what he wants to say, I am walking in line with the institutes of the group. I confirm the soundness of the [election] procedures 100 percent.”
The Muslim brotherhood is officially banned in Egypt, but is left to operate relatively openly though its members are subject to periodic crackdowns.
In 2005, the Muslim Brotherhood gained a surprising 20 percent of the seats in parliament by fielding candidates as “independents.”
Since then, a fierce government crackdown has left many prominent members behind bars. The group says the crackdown is aimed at distancing them from political life.
Last week, Supreme Guide Akif was again the source of controversy regarding his support for Iran. Akif told Asharq Al-Awsat that, “the group’s (MB) stand with Iran if it came under attack by any party is self-evident and does not need questioning. Without you asking: Will I stand with the Zionist criminals, I will of course stand with Iran as one bloc and anyone who says otherwise I tell him: Fear God.”