Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood holds vote in public

Most popular and organized political force in Egypt was banned, harassed semi-tolerated, during 30-year rule of former president Hosni Mubarak.

Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood leaders 311 (R) (photo credit: Amr Dalsh / Reuters)
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 as independents.
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.