REPORTING FROM CAIRO--A leader of the Muslim Brotherhood's political party is poised to become the speaker of Egypt's parliament, a stunning reversal of fortunes for a movement banned under ousted President Hosni Mubarak.
Mohamed Saad Katatni, the secretary-general of the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, was nominated by a grouping of leading vote-getters in parliamentary elections.
His party has already won about 45% of the People's Assembly's seats following the third and final round of elections. The Islamic conservative Salafi party Al Nour remains second after claiming more than 20% of the seats. Official results are expected in coming days.
Katatni's nomination was announced after a meeting of the leaders of Freedom and Justice, Al Nour and a number of liberal parties, including the Social Democratic Party and Wafd, which secured 9% of parliament's seats. The nomination proposal also stipulated that the two deputy speakers of parliament would be chosen from Wafd and Al Nour.
"This is a one-day agreement for the day the parliament opens," Mohamed Aboul Ghar, leader of the Social Democratic Party, said after the meeting. "We have to cooperate so the main posts in the parliament will be distributed fairly.... Even the small parties and those with only one seat will not be excluded."
The leader of Freedom and Justice, Mohamed Morsi, echoed Aboul Ghar's comments, stressing that the agreement was meant to guarantee a parliament that expresses national unity.
But not everyone is on board. The Egyptian Bloc, led by Coptic Christian billionaire Naguib Sawiris' Free Egyptians Party, is worried that Islamists will dominate parliament.
The Egyptian Bloc strongly competed against Freedom and Justice in the early stages of the elections but did poorly in rural areas and ended up winning no more than 10% of the seats. On Tuesday, the Free Egyptians denounced the agreement over Katatni's nomination.
"We object determining the parliament's speaker through a political deal. The new speaker should have been a neutral person who gets voted for inside the parliament," said Mohamed Abu Hamed, a legislator from the Free Egyptians.
He added other parties were "helping Freedom and Justice become a new National Democratic Party," an allusion to Mubarak's party, which ruled the country for 30 years. Elections are set to conclude Jan. 19, and parliament's first session is expected Jan. 23.
Photo: Freedom and Justice Secretary-General Mohamed Saad Katatni. Credit: Mahmoud Abd El-Ghany / Reuters