x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

A vulnerable candidate

The Muslim Brotherhood's success in presidential elections will be tempered because of the party's past mistakes, an Arabic language editorial says. Other topics in today's roundup: bloodshed in Syria, and a crisis in Sudan.

Muslim Brotherhood presidential candidate will be vulnerable because of his party's mistakes

The Muslim Brotherhood movement in Egypt made a "strategic mistake" last week when it put forward a candidate of its own for president, according to a weekend editorial in the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi.

The Muslim Brotherhood elected Khairat Al Shater, who is none other than the movement's deputy general guide, to vie for the presidential office in June, thus breaking an earlier promise that the movement would not get involved in presidential elections.

"The mistake that was made had nothing to do with the man himself, or his credentials," the newspaper said. "The mistake was made in terms of principle, as the movement switched from its original stance that favoured neutrality to direct involvement in the race."

Mr Al Shater won the nomination by a 56-to-52 vote at the Muslim Brotherhood's Shura Council. "Which reflects such a deep internal split," according to the newspaper.

"It is not becoming of the potential next president of Egypt to go with the blessing of barely half the members of his own party … which will make him weaker later on in rallying voters from outside the Brotherhood."

Mr Al Shater is not going to be running for president alone, and his prospective opponents, especially Islamist candidates like Hazem Abu Ismail and Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, are powerful contenders. Not to mention the strong near-secularists like Amr Moussa, the former head of the Arab League and Ahmed Shafiq, the former prime minister, who took office for about two months at the height of the Egyptian uprising.

The Brotherhood could have played the game more cleverly. If they so wished they could have stayed "on top of everybody else" by playing "kingmaker".

"They could have decided on who will be the next Egyptian president, simply by urging their large fan base to support him … and by the same token secure his loyalty."

Likewise, columnist Mohammed Salah, argued in the London-based Al Hayat yesterday that candidates who are not affiliated with the Islamic movement will benefit from the nomination of a Brotherhood candidate.

"I knew Mr Al Shater personally, and I'm aware of his weight inside the Brotherhood," the columnist wrote.

"And, sure, throughout his life he has stomached many blows from [Hosni Mubarak's] regime: his money was taken from him; his economic ventures were made to fail; he was a victim of a smear campaign; and he was put in prison.

"But all these credentials, which raise his status in the Brotherhood, will not be enough to make him president - especially that non-Islamist candidates like Amr Moussa and Ahmed Shafiq … stand to benefit a great deal from the divisions happening in the Islamists' ranks."

No breakthrough at Friends of Syria talks

It is embarrassing that the US and Russia seem more heedful of Syrian blood than do parties and officials who are supposed to be the most concerned with the crisis, columnist Satei Noureddine wrote in the Lebanese daily Assafir.

The outcome of the Friends of Syria conference in Istanbul on Sunday proved once again that the western powers are more aware of the dangers of arming the Syrian opposition, which would widen the civil war among Syrians.

The attendance in Turkey was bigger than at the first such conference, on Tunisia last February. The rhetoric level was certainly louder this time, too, but the content didn't measure up to the demands of the Syrian opposition in terms of armament and financing. Instead, the discussion revolved around the preferred procedures for dealing with the Assad regime.

"The Istanbul conference brings all parties concerned back to reality: the regime doesn't get an open opportunity to continue its military campaign and the opposition doesn't get to realise its past dreams of a Nato-led invasion of Syria," said the writer.

The conference based its conclusions on US and Russian pragmatism.

It avoided extreme positions and allowed for a new rhetoric that doesn't exclude the other side, which could be a good basis to stop the bloodshed.

Sudans must agree or face escalation

High hopes were put on the summit scheduled to bring together Sudan's president Omar Al Bashir and Salva Kiir Mayardit, the president of South Sudan, to look into the pending issues between north and south, said the Dubai-based newspaper Al Bayan in its editorial.

But the situation in the south is instead getting murkier as fighting continues and each country accuses the other of supporting insurgents.

The disease of internal fighting has invaded the Sudanese community, especially in that Khartoum has yet to get rid of its old ways.

"An open dialogue between the two leaders is of the essence. It would break the tension and weaken the factors that could lead to a war," the paper said.

South Sudan is a budding state that mustn't overestimate its own power.

The country needs to make great efforts to establish its basic structure, and is in no position to ban all Sudanese companies from benefiting from the situation.

Both countries need to gauge their mutual economic interests and the interests of their citizens and to regulate the relationship between them at the earliest possible moment, to avoid further escalation.


* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk