The incident of the arrest of Mahmoud Ezzat, the Deputy Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood group, in an apartment in Cairo’s Fifth Settlement, on 28 August 2020, has revived the debate about the Brotherhood’s future and its leadership structure. Subsequently, the Brotherhood announced organisational arrangements whereby Ibrahim Munir singled out as its chief executive. This raises questions about the dimensions of this step, the extent it would be able to overcome the organisation’s crises, and its potential repercussions for the organisation’s future.
What is going on inside the organisation?
After Ezzat’s arrest, the group remained for nearly three weeks without a specific alternative leadership, even as its spokesman asserted that "the group’s business is running in a normal and institutional way and is not affected by the absence of one of its leaders”. While the group’s internal regulations organise such cases, stipulating that “In the event that the General Guide is absent outside the Republic or is unable to carry out his duties due to illness or an emergency excuse, his first deputy shall take his place in all of his duties” (Article 4), and that “In the event of compulsive impediments that prevent the Guide from carrying out his duties, he would be replaced by his first deputy, then the other deputies in order of seniority, then members of the Guidance Office in order of seniority" (Article 5). In this case, this applies to Ibrahim Munir. However, the actual interaction with the event indicates the occurrence of a" written crisis" and dissatisfaction with this leadership transition on the part of the group’s Secretary-General Dr Mahmoud Hussein and his supporters. This was expressed through several indications, most notably the group’s first official statement, issued on 14 September 2020, which announced the appointment of Munir as the group’s leader and his assumption of the Guide’s duties without giving details.
This opened the door to speculation about the possibility of Mahmoud Hussein’s continued presence on the new scene. This was settled by the second statement, issued on 17 September 2020, which referred to the abolition of the General Secretariat and the formation of an administrative committee to assist Munir that would include member of the Guidance Office Mahmoud Hussein and others without specifying their names for security reasons, according to the remarks made by Talaat Fahmi, the group’s spokesman, who was also keen on “emphasising that no struggle existed between the Hussein and Munir fronts despite the difference in opinion, and that this delay is attributable to the inevitability of passing the decision through the grassroots before its official announcement”. He added that "the new leadership decided, with a view to unifying efforts and shortening the mechanisms of work, that there is no need for the General Secretariat, considering that most members of the Guidance Office are in prison. Thus, it decided to form a committee with Hussein as one of its members", although his continuation is actually attributable to the fact that he is the only remaining free member of the Guidance Office.
Despite the traditionality that characterised the group’s leadership transition process, in consistence with its organisational regulations, in light of the current scene, that transition is particularly important in terms of its timing and the symbol chosen to lead the group. The assumption of the group’s leadership by a figure such as Ibrahim Munir at this stage indicates the following:
The change in the organisation’s leadership at the present time constitutes an event that indicates two keys to redrawing some features of the next stage of the organisation’s life in the foreseeable future, in which the organisational and the political aspects overlap.
There is a belief that Munir’s current position, as the sole figure in charge of the group at home and abroad, makes him somewhat capable of healing the organisational rift and “stopping the duplication of the decision and its occasional delay, let alone the chasm between the leadership and the grassroots”, through his organisational symbolism of the Brotherhood group and its financial capability, especially that he was not a direct party to the leadership crisis that emerged in recent years although he subsequently supported Ezzat’s front. This strengthens his position as a link between all sides in light of the financial capacity and political contacts of the London office. In addition, the fact that he has no deputies and his practically exclusive management through his newly created "covert" committee would grant him a central executive capacity that would facilitate the possibility of bringing about organisational leaps in case he wants to pass or take a decision, especially that he is the only person who determines the term of the committee, and he is also the one who chooses its members. He left the door open for evaluating performance and replacing members if necessary, although he acknowledged that the group’s Shura Council is the general observer of the various existing procedures.
Accordingly, efforts are expected to be made to maximise the political paths by intensifying focus on and support for any peaceful movement against the political regime in Egypt, in light of the group’s assertion that “it would not strike any deal whatsoever with the regime, and that its waiting for the occurrence of events that would help bring the regime down is only too normal.
The limits of the effectiveness of the recent leadership changes in the Muslim Brotherhood, and the opportunities and risks they entail, remain tied to the nature of the corresponding interaction by the group's grassroots, the Egyptian authority, and the international community:
 See the remarks of the group’s spokesman at: https://cutt.us/ksVz6
 Interview with Talat Fahmi, media spokesman of the Muslim Brotherhood group, on “Work arrangements within the group during the next phase”, Watan TV, 19 September 2020. Available at: https://cutt.us/cGoSM
 “Ibrahim Munir, the first accused in the "international organisation" (1-2), Official figures visit the Brotherhood's office in London”, almasryalyoum, 6 July 2009. Available at: https://cutt.us/hzeBB
 Essam Tallima, “Who is the acting new Guide?”, 14 September 2020, arabi21. Available at: https://cutt.us/5oCRU
 Ibrahim Munir’s interview with Al Hiwar TV, 19 September 2020. Available at: https://cutt.us/n8nlB
 Ahmed Ramadan, “Brotherhood’s Deputy Guide: we shall not strike a deal with Sisi; we await his fall”, Aljazeera.net, 25 August 2020. Available at: https://cutt.us/8KYfE
EPC | 20 Oct 2020
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