EGYPT: Muslim Brotherhood snubs Elbaradei and decides to run in November parliamentary elections
Nobel Prize winner and reformist leader Mohamed ElBaradei's calls for boycotting parliamentary elections received a major blow Saturday when the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's most important opposition party, announced that it would compete in the November poll.
The Brotherhood's supreme guide, Mohamed Badie, told a news conference Saturday that 98% of the group's Politburo members voted to take part in elections many see as tipped in favor of the ruling National Democratic Party. The decision was another indication of the divisions and squabbles among opposition groups that have been hampered for years by conflicting agendas.
"The Brotherhood will field candidates for third of the People's Assembly's seats. A list of its candidates' names will be released in few weeks' time," Badie said. Despite being politically banned, the Brotherhood, whose members run as independents, is the biggest opposition bloc in parliament with 88 out of 454 seats.
The Brotherhood's decision comes after democracy campaigner ElBaradei called on all opposition forces to snub the elections, saying that taking part will give the ruling regime a legitimacy it doesn't deserve. The former director of the United Nation's nuclear watchdog agency said the elections will be rigged, and that anyone competing in November will be acting against the Egyptian people's will.
Elbaradei's call, however, received mixed support across the political spectrum. Erstwhile presidential nominee Ayman Nour's El Ghad party and the Democratic Front party decided to boycott. Other opposition parties with a relatively moderate stance toward the ruling regime like Wafd and Tagammu announced that they will compete.
The Brotherhood's announcement ended any hope of uniting opposition parties over the boycott, and analysts suggested the group, which has had hundreds of it members jailed in recent years, was following its own motives.
"The Muslim Brotherhood has always been trying to come across as a political rather than a strictly radical religious group and they want to capitalize on the excessive media coverage accompanying the elections in fulfilling such an aim," researcher and expert in Islamic movements Deyaa Rashwan told the Times. "The elections will be a great platform for the Brotherhood to propagate its ideas and gain more supporters regardless of how many seats it can win."
Government crackdowns and large-scale detentions of Brotherhood members in recent years, which have been criticized by human rights groups and Washington, suggest that the group will have an uphill mission to preserve its 88 parliamentary seats. Some analysts say the Brotherhood may win fewer than 10 seats in November.
Parliamentary elections come one year ahead of Egypt's presidential elections. The nation is awash in uncertainty and rumors over President Hosni Mubarak's deteriorating health and the possibility that his son Gamal, a top NDP official, may succeed him. The NDP is yet to announce whether Mubarak senior will run for a sixth term in office.
-- Amro Hassan in Cairo
Photo: Muslim Brotherhood supreme guide, Mohamed Badie. Credit: Reuters