Brothers seek parliamentary alliance

In the absence of an overall majority the Muslim Brotherhood’s political wing is seeking parliamentary allies – Published on Al-Ahram weekly online, by Gamal Essam El-Din, 19 – 25 January 2012.

… Meanwhile, Cairo has continued to see an influx of delegations visiting from the US. They have US assistant secretary for Near East Affairs Jeffrey Feltman, US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and former US president Jimmy Carter (1976- 1980). All have made the pilgrimage to the FJP’s headquarters, keen to explore the position of Egypt’s largest parliamentary party on a number of strategic issues, not least the 1979 Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty, and to assess its commitment to democracy, human rights and religious tolerance.  

FJP leaders have been keen to reassure their visitors that they will not seek to use their majority in parliament to turn Egypt into a religious state. El-Katatni told parliamentary correspondents that “we also told the Americans that the large number of Salafist members of the new parliament should be seen as a blessing since their involvement in formal politics means they will have to learn the art of compromise rather than push an extremist agenda”.

El-Katatni did not explain why the Salafis would want to compromise if it did not involve securing some elements of their agenda. His failure to do so reinforced concerns expressed by liberal commentators that, following presidential elections, the FJP and Nour are likely to draw closer to one another, especially when it comes to pseudo- religious issues such as imposing stricter censorship. FJP lawyers have already filed a case against liberal businessman Naguib Sawiris, accusing him of insulting Islam for posting a cartoon of a bearded Mickey Mouse and face-veiled Minnie.

Following the three-stage polls the liberal Egyptian Bloc – an alliance including the Sawiris-led Free Egyptians, the Egypt Social Democratic Party, and the leftist Tagammu – won around 40 seats. Other forces – independents, the leftist Revolution Continues alliance, and remnants of ousted president Hosni Mubarak’s defunct ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) – are expected to occupy between 35 and 40 seats.

Of the FJP’s MPs, 30 served in the 2005- 2010 People’s Assembly. Among them are El-Katatni, expected to be speaker of the new People’s Assembly, Sobhi Saleh, tipped as chairman of the Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee, Ashraf Badreddin, tipped to head the Budget Committee, Hussein Ibrahim, expected to chair the Industrial Committee, Akram El-Shaer, tipped to head the Health Committee and Al-Azhar cleric Sayed Askar, a strong contender for the chairmanship of the religious affairs committee.

Others, who are members of the FJP-led Democratic Alliance but not of the party, expected to occupy leading positions are Al-Ahram political analyst Wahid Abdel-Meguid, tipped to head the Foreign Affairs Committee, and Mohamed El-Sawy, expected to chair the culture, tourism and media committee. (full text).

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