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Muslim Brotherhood Leadership

The Muslim Brotherhood (MB) on 20 August 2013 named Mahmoud Ezzat as its new leader after the Egyptian government dealt another blow to the group by arresting its supreme guide Mohamed Badie earlier in the day. Although more Brotherhood members were arrested or going underground, experts said it is unlikely that Badie's removal could make major influence in practical terms as hardliners of the Islamist group might seek further revenge. Seen as the wolf among the group, Ezzat was known for his strong relations with the international organization for Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas movement.

Ezzat, former secretary general of the group, a member of the guidance bureau now and a deputy to the guide, was once arrested in 1965, and sentenced to 10 years in prison. He was chosen as a member of the guidance bureau in 1981, and was arrested again in 2008 during protests over Israeli attack on Gaza.

Until naming a new Secretary General (Dr. Mahmoud Hussein) in January 2010, Badie had been described by some as a proxy for the more influential "conservative" leader former Secretary General Mahmoud Ezzat. Badie and Ezzat share a common experience as part of the group detained with Sayed El Qutb in 1965. While Ezzat appeared to have had a strong behind the scenes role as the power behind the "conservative" shift, the impact of his removal from the administrative post of Secretary General was unclear.

The difference between "conservatives" and "reformers" in the group is not ideological. Instead it is their perspective, short-term vs. long-term, that determines how they set priorities and implement programs to achieve the group's goal of social, economic and political reform based on the principles of Islam. "Conservatives" like Ezzat are interested in the group's interests over the next twenty years. This results in a tendency to focus first on organizational unity. On the other hand, "reformers" are focused on what is happening in the next few years. They are more likely to press the group to take advantage of the current political and social environment, including forming alliances with other groups, to promote the group's interests.

The Muslim Brotherhood is not a monolithic organization, but it does maintain a leadership structure and a core set of beliefs. Its leader is called the “General Guide.” He has several “Deputy Guides.” Below them is the “Guidance Council” comprised of 15-16 senior leaders as well as a broader body (“The Shura”) comprised of roughly 100 members.

Following the death of Muslim Brotherhood (MB) Guidance Bureau member Mohammed Helal on 21 September 2009 the private and sometimes sensationalist Al Dustour ("The Constitution") newspaper printed a series of articles on internal divisions within the MB over Helal's replacement. The Guidance Bureau and the MB Shura Council governs the MB's internal affairs. Dustour reported that conservatives within the MB, led by MB Secretary General Mahmoud Ezzat, are trying to obstruct Dr. Essam El Eryan, known as a "moderate" member of the MB, from taking Helal's seat. Dustour's reporting cites sources who say that younger MBs and Eryan supporters intend to pressure MB Supreme Guide Mehdi Akef to promote Eryan to the Guidance Bureau. Akef will step down from his post following the end of his term in December 2009. These sources also maintain that Guidance Bureau rules require that any vacant seat be allocated according to internal popularity, but suggest that manipulation of those internal guidelines is possible. Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies analyst on Islamist trends Di'aa Rashwan confirmed that Eryan did win a significant number of votes in the last internal election in May/June 2008 and called his rise to the Guidance Bureau a "valid possibility." MB MP and Bloc leader Saad Katatni and four others were named to the Bureau following the same elections.

Essam El Eryan was known as the unofficial spokesman of MB (although this role diminished since 2007). He is also considered the most prominent of the "younger generation" of MB leaders. (El Eryan was 55 in 2009.) Eryan was a member of the Egyptian parliament in the late-1980s and has been the Assistant Secretary General of the Doctor's Syndicate since 1986. He is also a founding member of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR). Eryan has been arrested several times because of his MB membership. In 1995 Eryan was sentenced to five years hard labor for "belonging to an illegal group that aims to suspend the constitution." He was arrested and held for several months three times since his release in 2000, including 5 months in detention before the 2005 elections.

Muslim Brotherhood (MB) internal disputes heated up as Supreme Guide Akef affirmed he would step down at the end of December 2009. Deputy Supreme Guide Mohammed Habib appeared poised to take his place. The leadership crisis focused on the scheduling of elections for a new Supreme Guide either before or after a new MB Shura Council is formed. The split once again divided "conservatives" who sek to maintain the MB and its religious and socia activities, even if it meant withdrawing from drect political activity and the "reformers" who seek internal reform, and a continued commitment to challenge the government through the political process. None of the current leadership is powerful enough to resolve internal crises, making Akef potentially the "last legitimate Supreme Guide."

Deputy Guide Mohammed Habib was initially seen as most likely permanently replace Akef. Mohammed Habib (often described as a "conservative") wanted the job and had sought to position himself as a centrist. Putting himself in the middle of the current dispute, Habib was seeking to cement his reputation as a potential successor to Akef, known for his ability to mediate these kinds of disputes in the past. Habib had put forward an internal reform proposal he believed will appeal to the movement's youth frustrated by the current leadership. Popular within the MB, Mohammed Habib came in second in the last Supreme Guide election.

Widely admired reformer and architect of the 2005 elections Khariat El Shater was third but is not in the running now because he remains in prison. Conservative leader Mahmoud Ezzat, who is eager to assert himself in the internal debate over the future of the MB but almost never speaks to the media, has according to Rafik Habib "no desire to be a public figure" and will not run for Supreme Guide.

Administrative insider and relative unknown Mohammed Badie, 66, was named the Muslim Brotherhood's eighth Supreme Guide on 16 January 2010. Badie's selection represents a generational shift within the group. He is the first Guide not to have known MB-founder Hassan Al-Banna. In his first public statement, Badie attempted to minimize the significance of disagreements among MB leaders that had spilled into public view. Some analysts question his ability to heal the internal rifts that remain after bitter infighting surrounding the election process. Guidance Bureau elections preceding the selection of Badie signaled a shift toward "conservatism" in the group. That shift has largely been viewed as evidence the group will become less politically active. Badie's initial statement signaled continued political engagement (although perhaps more modest than 2005) and sent a message to the regime that the MB is not its enemy.

As noted by the U.S. Government’s Open Source Center, Badi is “influenced by the writings of famous MB ideologue Sayyid Qutb… [and is] known for his conservative views.” In an interview on April 14, 2010, Mr. Badi said “we will continue to raise the banner of Jihad and the Koran in our confrontation with the enemy of Islam.” He went on to say, “The Muslim Brotherhood still considers the Zionists to be its main and only enemy. The Jews who occupy Palestine have their eyes set on Egypt.”

The naming of the new Guide followed the December 2009 election of the MB's primary administrative body, the Guidance Bureau. These were the first Guidance Bureau elections since 1995. The term for each member is six years. The term is extended if elections are delayed. Once voted onto the Bureau, members receive lifetime membership in the MB's legislative body, the Shura Council. In the recent elections, leaders of the movement's "conservative" wing appear to have cemented their leadership. Deputy Supreme Guide Mohammed Habib, thought by many to be the next MB Supreme Guide, was removed from the Bureau, as was recently released reformer Abdel Moneim Al Fotouh. In the most public airing of internal MB disputes in recent memory, Habib had publically insisted the election process was not legitimate, despite then-Guide Akef's public certification of the results. Following the elections, Habib resigned from his role as Deputy Guide, the Guidance Bureau and his seat on the International Shura Council (giving up therefore any influence over the naming of the next Guide). Habib was absent from the press conference announcing Badie as was Fotouh.

The exclusion of Mohammed Habib and Fotouh from the Bureau was a sanction for their public criticism of the group and not a rejection of their views. In the view of some, the difference between "conservatives" and "reformers" in the group is not ideological. Instead it is their perspective, short-term vs. long-term, that determines how they set priorities. "Conservatives" like Ezzat are interested in the group's interests over the next twenty years. On the other hand, "reformers" like Fotouh are focused on what is happening in the next few years.

While the previous Guidance Bureau had a wide generational distribution, the current group is mostly homogeneous, with only a few members over the age of 60. The prevalence of a "common experience" was thus likely to make this a less contentious group.

Others saw the shift to the "right" as a direct result of Government of Egypt pressure on the group over the last year. Some suggested high-profile arrests targeting known MB "reformers" were part of an effort to sideline those who would push for participation in the elections on the scale seen in 2005. While the security services see the "conservative wing," which is focused on the group's long term survival, as easier to control than the reform wing, the group, without a strong reform trend, will become both more isolated and more likely "act outside the law."

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