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EGYPT: Muslim Brotherhood announces new political party

April 30, 2011 | 10:22 am

Muslim After struggling to form a legitimate political party for more than eight decades, the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's biggest and best-organized Islamic movement, has officially established its Freedom and Justice party, the group announced Saturday.

"This party will be independent from the Brotherhood but will coordinate with it," Mahmoud Hussein, the Brotherhood’s secretary general, said at a press conference. The Brotherhood said Mohamed Morsy, a member of the group’s politburo, will lead the new party, with prominent Brotherhood figures Essam Erian and Saad Katatni serving as deputy chief and secretary general, respectively.

Morsy quickly moved to allay fears that Freedom and Justice would be dominated by religious ideology and Islamic conservatism: "The party will not be Islamist in the old understanding," he said.

The Brotherhood said the new party will be contesting for 45% to 50% of the seats in parliamentary elections scheduled for September. The group has previously said that it would not field a candidate in presidential elections, which are expected two months after a new parliament is selected.

The Brotherhood was barred from politics by former President Hosni Mubarak’s regime, which often referred to it as a terrorist organization that threatened the country's democracy. But the Brotherhood has long had widespread appeal for its grassroots social programs. The Supreme Military Council that has been running the country since Mubarak's overthrow in February has allowed the Brotherhood and other religious organizations to form political parties.

In 2005, with its members running as independents, the Brotherhood stunned the nation by winning 20%  of parliament seats, making it the largest opposition bloc in the chamber. But the group lost its  parliamentary status during the 2010 elections, winning no more than one seat in a ballot that was widely regarded as rigged by Mubarak's ruling party.

-- Amro Hassan in Cairo

Photo: Mohamed Morsy. Credit: Associated Press

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