In Egypt, Muslim Brotherhood becomes legitimate party

Group becomes an official political party for the first time since they were outlawed in 1954; can run in September's elections.

muslim brotherhood_311 reuters (photo credit: Ali Jarekji / Reuters)
muslim brotherhood_311 reuters
(photo credit: Ali Jarekji / Reuters)
The Egyptian official news agency on Tuesday recognized the Muslim Brotherhood as a legitimate party for the first time since it was outlawed in 1954.
The party was recognized as the Freedom and Justice Party and will be allowed to run in the parliamentary elections scheduled for September, The Associated Press reported.
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The Muslim Brotherhood’s candidates, running as independents, won 20 percent of the Egyptian vote in the 2005 parliamentary election.
To be recognized as a party under the new rules, the party has announced it will be open to Muslims, Christians and women, AP said.
Last month, Abdel Moneim Abul Futuh, a senior member of the Brotherhood, said he would run for president as an independent in election to be held after the parliamentary vote. At the time, the Islamist group that said it will not field a candidate.
Secular groups and the West are concerned by how much power the Brotherhood will gain in the first elections since the toppling of president Hosni Mubarak.
Decades of authoritarian rule has curbed the development of potential rivals.
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Egypt’s biggest Islamist movement had sought to assuage fears by saying it would not seek the presidency this year, nor would it pursue a majority in September’s parliamentary poll, contesting only 50 percent of seats.
But Abul Futuh, a reformist leading member of the group, told Reuters: “I will run as an independent candidate in the coming presidential elections. I am not a member of any party now.”
Abul Futuh said his move did not mean the Brotherhood had changed tack.
“The Brotherhood as a group is not competing for the presidency and is now separating its mandates, a move I had called for four years ago,” he said, a reference to the new political party the Brotherhood has set up.
Under Mubarak, the group fielded candidates as independents in elections, skirting a ban on its political activities and maintaining a nationwide organization others lacked.
The military council in charge until a new president is elected, has said Egypt will not become an Iranstyle theocracy.
A poll published on April 22 in the state-run Al-Ahram newspaper showed Abul Futuh and outgoing Arab League chief Amr Moussa with the highest voter support at 20 percent each, while Mohamed ElBaradei, the retired UN diplomat, had 12% support.
A senior Brotherhood member said Abul Futuh’s decision was personal and the group would not back his candidacy.
“Abul Futuh’s decision counters the Brotherhood’s official decision,” said Sobhi Saleh, a leading Brotherhood member in Alexandria.
Reuters contributed to this report.