Outlawed Brotherhood ready for Egyptian vote

Outlawed Brotherhood ready for Egyptian vote

Outlawed Brotherhood ready for Egyptian vote
Cairo – In a first for a state-owned Egyptian paper, the daily al-Ahram published a full-length interview on Tuesday with the head of the banned Muslim Brotherhood who discussed the group’s plans for parliamentary elections scheduled for November and December.

"As a man who opposes oppression, I sense that things are starting to change, and I hope to God that the trend will continue," Mahdi Akef said when asked whether he thought the government’s position was changing towards the Brotherhood’s participation in political life.

Banned in 1954, the Brotherhood has participated in several parliamentary elections by fielding candidates as independents. As a religious-based organisation, it is forbidden from forming a political party.

The group won 17 of the 444 elected seats in the 2000 parliamentary elections, but complained that security intervention prevented many supporters from entering polling stations to cast their votes.

State-owned dailies have quoted top members of the Brotherhood with increasing frequency in recent months, but Tuesday’s interview was the first of its kind.

Akef’s interview was published at a time when the Egyptian regime has tried to show itself as increasingly liberal. For instance it has played up the holding of its first multi-candidate presidential elections in September which were won by the incumbent for the past 24 years, President Hosny Mubarak.

Concurrently, the state-owned press has been facing mounting competition from the opposition and independent press, which has been growing rapidly for over a year after an extended period when publication licenses were infrequently granted.

It also comes just days after the release Sunday of Brotherhood spokesperson Essam al-Eryan, who was jailed in May during a cross-country wave of demonstrations by the group calling for reform. Akef said the Brotherhood will field 150 candidates – only one of whom is a woman, in the hopes of winning 50 seats.

"We had hoped to have 25 women run, however the male mentality made that impossible, as it is difficult for a man to permit his, wife, daughter or sister to run out of fear for them," Akef said.

Regarding cooperation with the United National Front, a coalition of opposition political parties and movements, Akef said that the Brotherhood and the front were still working on their lists of candidates. Nonetheless, he added, "We are ready to concede (to the front) any constituency in which they have a stronger candidate than the Brotherhood."

In a related matter Brotherhood spokesperson al-Eryan told the Pan- Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat on Tuesday that he was still considering whether to run for parliament and that the Brotherhood had not given up on holding demonstrations.

"Everyone needs to know that demonstrating is only one means (of political pressure), but not the only one," he said.

More than 1 000 members of the group were detained during the spring demonstrations, only a few leading members spent longer than a few days in detention.

Parliamentary elections are scheduled in three phases starting November 9, with the final phase set for December 7. – Sapa-dpa


Published on the Web by IOL on 2005-10-18 07:40:10


© Independent Online 2005. All rights reserved. IOL publishes this article in good faith but is not liable for any loss or damage caused by reliance on the information it contains.