Muslim Brotherhood provides wake-up call for Egyptian House
Tuesday, May 9,2006 00:00
By Malak Labib, Agence France Presse (AFP

Six months after shock electoral gains, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood have injected new life into Parliament but some argue they have failed to propose a program beyond a systematic opposition to the regime. On November 9, 2005, the Islamist movement electrified a political landscape atrophied by decades of one-party rule by inflicting stinging defeats on the National Democratic Party.

The Muslim Brotherhood, who are still officially banned and fielded candidates as independents, went on to secure a fifth of the People’s Assembly, forming the largest opposition bloc in the chamber’s recent history.

Even members of the NDP readily admit that the 88 Islamist lawmakers yanked Parliament out of its usual complacency.

"The Muslim Brotherhood have revitalized Parliament," ruling party MP Khalifa Radwan told AFP.

"The People’s Assembly used to be purely decorative," he said, with the bulk of MPs showing up only to collect the check they are owed for each session or committee meeting and sometimes even signing up for their colleagues.

For the first time, the opposition won a vote in Parliament last week, proposing an amendment for a new educational body to be under the authority of the People’s Assembly rather than that of the prime minister.

The surprise vote earned NDP lawmakers a reprimand from Speaker Fathi Sorur, who urged them to start being more assiduous.

"Now we must be present in large numbers at important sessions and our deputies have to prepare for the sessions in advance, which didn’t used to be the case," Radwan explained.

On April 30, Brotherhood MPs demonstrated against the extension of emergency laws in front of Parliament, an institution little accustomed to being used as a platform for anti-government activities.

But the Islamist movement, which claims it could have won the elections had they been free and fair, say their new-found political leverage has earned them further persecution.

"Most issues we have presented to the government concerning the repressive practices of the Interior Ministry have not been discussed and I’m sure they will not be," said Mohammad al-Katatni, the head of the group’s parliamentary bloc.

Dozens of Muslim Brotherhood supporters have been detained over the past months in what the movement’s leaders said was a campaign of intimidation launched in reaction to their parliamentary activity.

The movement displayed great political acumen during the electoral campaign but its verve in Parliament has failed to silence critics questioning the movement’s ability to emerge as a credible governing force.

"Theirs is a knee-jerk attitude toward the NDP, but we don’t see them pushing forward a clear agenda," said Amr Hashem Rabie, a researcher at the Al-Ahram Center for Strategic studies.

"On the economic and social fronts, they have nothing to offer," charges Mohammad Shaaban, a member for the leftist opposition Tagammu Party.

Commentary by Ikhwanweb

The Muslim Brotherhood (MB), being wholeheartedly for dialogue, peaceful coexistence and understanding among civilization, appreciates objective criticism of its program and action like the present article.

The new life that the MB has injected into the hitherto stagnant totalitarian political body politic in Egypt since its electoral victory last fall is not limited to parliament. It has been reflected on political party activities, media coverage including the Internet and T.V. channels, political life on the campuses and professional associations.

 In parliament, MB members who represent only 20 percent of membership carry out more than 50 percent of parliamentarian activities. As they take their membership duties seriously, in so many cases they form a majority of attending members and the Speaker had frequently adjourned sessions to avoid voting reflecting the MB attending majority.

 The campaign they have launched against the emergency law extension has been impressive and extensive and reflects their serious commitment against totalitarianism and for true democracy. They are now paying the price of their principled commitment through arbitrary detentions by the regime of their leading members and ferocious disinformation and distortion campaign against them and their leaders.

 The oft-repeated allegation that they lack a political program or a program in general is rather a silly one. Their program has been presented on so many occasions and in detail, including on their websites. On the home page of Ikhwanweb, the reader can find for instance a detailed presentation entitled “The Muslim Brotherhood’s Program”. He or she can also find explanations of that program in many previous interviews of their leaders, including one with the Deputy Chairman of the MB, Dr. Mohamed Habib who explains that program under the section entitled “FAQ”. It is an allegation that is raised by bankrupt political parties lacking any popular support, like the leftist-Marxist Tagammu Party, and government client paid circles. 

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