Guest Post: Egypt’s De Facto President

Guest post by Mohamed El-Bahrawi, business editor at Daily News Egypt

[caption id="attachment_674" align="aligncenter" width="580"]Khairat Al Shater, courtesy of Egypt Independent Khairat Al Shater, courtesy of Egypt Independent[/caption]

The saying goes, “behind every great man there is a great woman” or, in Egypt’s case, “behind President Morsi there is Khairat Al Shater”.

It is no secret that it is Khairat Al Shater and not Mohammed Morsi, who has really been running the Muslim Brotherhood behind the scenes.

The multi-millionaire, or The Engineer as he likes to called by friends, is regarded as the brains behind the group’s “Renaissance” or El Nahda project, and is among the most powerful members of the Islamist movement.

Evidence of this power play has been piling up by the month.

Last month, for instance, when Morsi issued a decree that granted him omnipotent authority, it came as a surprise to everyone, including his aides and his vice president.  In response, many of his advisors resigned in protest and his former vice president, who resigned last week, denied any previous knowledge that such a decree was going to be issued.

So if his aides and his own VP were not privy to the decision-making process, someone else has to be. Who are the decision makers then? Whose advice does the president seek before taking action?

In October, more evidence of Al Shater’s influence was leaked when word got out that he was appointed to the presidential economic team and would be given an office in the presidential palace.

And just a few days ago, Egypt’s Al Watan newspaper (disclaimer: also regarded as a rumour mill) said Al Shater and Hassan Malek, another elite business-oriented Brotherhood member, had compiled a black list of businessmen they wanted excluded from certain activities.

So where does that leave Morsi?

Morsi is being cast more as a puppet the longer he is president.

His determination to push through the new charter with such a slim mandate has damaged his political clout.

The Muslim Brotherhood are not as strong as when they first came to power, and with the economy in tatters,  narrowing the budget deficit and showing tangible signs of economic recovery is their last chance to prove to the people that they are capable of getting the country back on its feet.

If they fail to do so, they’re finished.

With the cabinet reshuffle ten ministers were replaced, including the critical positions of finance and interior minister.

Khairat Al Shater is still nowhere to be seen.  As the most charismatic, shrewd and business-minded member of the Brotherhood, some may question why he is not represented in the government in any way.

But he has morphed into the perfect silent leader of the Brotherhood, using relatively inexperienced politicians to enact his orders.

He will remain in the background as it would be political suicide for the Brotherhood to openly push out Morsi.

As the Muslim Brotherhood’s first choice for a presidential candidate, he is already running the country through Morsi, and is the defacto president.

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