There is no better way to take the temperature of Arab politics than to examine the state of the Muslim Brotherhood, the most powerful religiously-organised opposition movement in Egypt and the Arab world. With branches in several Arab and Muslim countries, the Brotherhood portrays itself as a more authentic, viable alternative to secular authoritarian rulers and religious extremists of the al-Qaida variety.
The recent election of a new leader, however, has utterly discredited those claims and exposed a serious rift within the 81-year-old Islamic organisation. After weeks of internal turmoil and infighting, the Brotherhood announced that it has chosen Mohammed Badie, an ultra-conservative veterinarian, as its eighth supreme leader since its founding in 1928, along with 16 members of its highest executive policy-setting “guidance bureau”.
Members of the old guard like Mahmoud Izzat, secretary general and gatekeeper of the Brotherhood’s finances and secrets, and Mohammed Akif, former supreme leader, who oppose opening up the organisation and democratising its decision-making, gained the upper hand. Ignoring the wishes of many younger members who called for transparency and respect for electoral rules, Izzat, Arif and their cohorts shoved the secretly-arranged results down the throats of opposition. [continued…]