A mediation to end the conflict between the ruling Supreme Council for Armed Forces (SCAF) and the highly influential Muslim Brotherhood has been conducted over the past two days by presidential candidate Mohamed Selim El-Awa, an Islamist with close association to both sides, sources say.
According to one source it is upon the initiative of El-Awa that the SCAF is holding a meeting today with the representatives of various political forces, including the Brotherhood’s political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), to consider a political exit from the current quagmire.
El-Awa, the same source added, is doing this with an eye of re-offering himself as a potential subject for the joint support of both the Brotherhood and the SCAF.
"Originally El-Awa announced his candidature on the basis that he would be supported by both sides but things did not work in his favour and neither side was really keen to throw their weight behind him," the source said. He added that today with the failure of the SCAF and the Brotherhood to come up with another candidate to the liking of both sides – or for that matter a runner to the liking of either sides but with some decent public support – El-Awa is hoping that his chances to garner the support of both sides is still possible.
The Brotherhood had promised not to run a candidate in the presidential elections but it recently changed its stance and suggested it would do so. The Supreme Guide of the Brotherhood Mohamed Badei said that his group finds it necessary at this point to propose the name of a candidate who can win the support of Egyptians and who could be entrusted with helping the country out of its current political and economic difficulties, a little over a year after the January 25 Revolution ended the three-decade rule of Hosni Mubarak.
"But the Muslim Brotherhood cannot agree on a name to run from within their ranks," said an informed source.
According to another source, the Brotherhood has been attempting to convince judges Tarek El-Bishry and Hossam El-Gheriani to run for president. El-Bishry has made it clear that he has no interest in soliciting the top executive job at all.
"El-Gheriani is not as a closed case as El-Bishry but he really seems very reluctant," suggested the source.
According to informed sources, deliberations that were conducted throughout the day to come up with a short list of possible candidates have not reflected a great deal of consensus either on the names or on the principle of running presidential candidates, within the Brotherhood or the Freedom and Justice Party.
"It looks like no names will come out of these deliberations – at least no names from within the Muslim Brotherhood or its party - and it is clear that [Brotherhood figure] Khairat El-Shater is not really tempted to run for the job," said a source within the organisation.
The decision of the Brotherhood to lend their support to El-Awa might, however, be a middle ground position by which they would clearly deny their support to their ex-member Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotuh, a presidential candidate with decent ratings according to several independent polls.
This move would be consistent with the original plan of the Brotherhood to support an Islamist candidate but not to put a member in the race.
"El-Awa has some support and respect within the SCAF and he is a man who could make intelligent deals about the status of the SCAF and the army now and in the future. As such he might be also the candidate to get the support of the SCAF," said an independent political source.
For El-Awa to secure the support of the SCAF and the Brotherhood, the current arm-twisting between the two sides would first have to come to an end. This means that the Brotherhood would have to accommodate the wish of the SCAF for some adjustments of the controversial membership of the committee that will be drafting the constitution.
"The SCAF does not want to come across as condoning the full control of the Brotherhood and other Islamists over this committee – and it actually might not want this control," said the independent political source.
He added that another pre-requisite for the success of the mediation between the Brotherhood and the SCAF is for the latter to accept the inclusion of some Brotherhood-nominated ministers in the cabinet of Kamal El-Ganzouri and for the Brotherhood, for that matter, to accept that the current prime minister will stay in office pending the election of a new president.
"Given the divides within the Muslim Brotherhood on whether or not to contain the current conflict with the SCAF, it is very hard to predict how things will go, but it could well be that the leadership of the Brotherhood chooses to keep up the fight and in this case we could be getting into the unpredictable," said the same independent political source.