Thursday, April 05, 2012

Abu Ismail's Mother Problem

Yesterday, I suggested that Khairat el-Shater's presidential candidacy was aimed at stopping the rise of salafi candidate Hazem Salah Abu Ismail, and that the SCAF was probably tacitly accepting of and perhaps even fully on board with that possibility. Today brings news that Abu Ismail could be disqualified:
"But today, this robust presidential run seems to be in jeopardy, as the 51-year-old lawyer-turned-preacher might be disqualified for his mother’s alleged dual Egyptian-American citizenship. His potential exclusion from the race may favor the Muslim Brotherhood’s recently nominated candidate, Khairat al-Shater, but could also provoke an uproar from his thousands of dedicated backers who pinned their hopes on Abu Ismail to implement God’s law...

"In recent days, reports about Abu Ismail’s mother having US citizenship have made headlines in the local press and TV news talk shows. If true, Abu Ismail’s candidacy application would be turned down, as Egyptian law stipulates that a presidential candidate must be born to Egyptian parents who have never held a second nationality.

"Abu Ismail denied these reports, claiming that his mother held an American green card but was never granted a US passport. In the meantime, he filed a lawsuit against the Interior Ministry and Presidential Elections Commission, demanding that they release official documents proving his mother was never a dual citizen."

The New York Times, however, refers to California records show that Abu Ismail's mother did, in fact, become an American.

If Abu Ismail is forced out of the race, el-Shater will benefit. There are two ways to read this as far as the SCAF's stance. One is that, if this was already bubbling under, they could have disqualified Abu Ismail regardless of whether el-Shater is running. Deep conspiracy theorists might suggest that having and MB candidate makes it look less like their Cabinet is just opposing Islamists. The counter to such theorists is that it probably requires a level of deep political thought not seen in the military's response to any other issue over the past year.

If Abu Ismail were forced out and el-Shater had not entered the race, you might see another salafi candidate or a huge bounce in the polls for Abd al-Muneim Abu al-Futuh, who left the MB to run when they were insisting they would not contest the presidency. Abu al-Futuh is more culturally moderate than either Abu Ismail or el-Shater, but also more socialist in ways that could appeal to the salafi base given the lack of better (from their perspective) options. The SCAF definitely wants to keep the level of private enterprise from which they have profited. Given this, they could still see el-Shater as the best Islamist option, while hoping to beat him with Amr Moussa.

UPDATE: As Blake Hounshell tweets: "So Abu Ismail gets disqualified and Shater is mysteriously pardoned... No conspiracy here, folks, move along..."



Anonymous blahedo said...

This is such a strange echo of the Obama birth certificate brouhaha over here.

Does it matter for the purposes of this law if the mother took US citizenship after Ismail was born? That seems like it would have some strange consequences.

4:27 PM  
Blogger Brian Ulrich said...

It probably does. Egypt, like a lot of post-colonial states, is a bit hardline on possible foreign influences.

4:50 PM  

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