Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood leaders 311 (R).
(photo credit: Amr Dalsh / Reuters)
CAIRO - Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood held a public internal election on Saturday for the first time in its history in a display of openness before a parliamentary election in November.
The Brotherhood, Egypt's most popular and organized political force, was banned and often harassed, but semi-tolerated, during the 30-year rule of former president Hosni Mubarak, who was ousted by an uprising in February.
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"The group is doing this now as it wants to set a model in democracy and transparency ahead of the parliamentary vote," Mustapha al-Sayyid, political science professor at Cairo University, said of the Brotherhood's public vote.
"Having an internal election in public will certainly increase the credibility of the group among the public," he said.
The Brotherhood is generally seen as the best prepared group for the
November election in which its newly formed "Freedom and Justice" party
will contest half the assembly's seats.
Founded in the 1920s, the organization has endured years of repression
and maintained strong grassroots support in Egypt's conservative Muslim
society partly through a broad social program. It won a fifth of the
seats in the 2005 parliamentary election when it fielding its candidates
But the Brotherhood has lately been suffering from internal squabbles
and criticism about its vague economic and political plans. It has also
come under fire for some public statements in which it took the side of
the military council which took over from Mubarak, rather than backing
groups seeking faster change.
Saturday's vote, to which journalists were invited, was to pick
replacements for three senior figures who resigned from the
Brotherhood's administrative body in April to join the Freedom and
Justice Party, which the group says will be independent.
The three men are party leader Mohamed Mursi, deputy leader Essam Elarian and secretary-general Mohamed Saed Elkatatny.
"The elections taking place in this open manner is one of the gains of
the blessed revolution that has allowed freedom of expression and
granted freedom to all Egyptian citizens, including the Muslim
Brotherhood," the group's guide, Mohamed Badie, said in a speech at the
event at a Cairo hotel.
The voters were members of the Brotherhood's 122-strong decision-making Shura Council.
The Brotherhood then hosted a Ramadan Iftar banquet, at a cost put by a
local newspaper at about a million Egyptian pounds ($168,000), with
guests expected to include military council members, government
officials and presidential candidates.