As Egyptian liberals and U.S. policy-makers nervously eye the prospect of an Islamist-dominated parliament, the Muslim Brotherhood’s leaders are trying to assuage fears that the group aspires to hold a monopoly on political power. In a televised interview on December 6, Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie reiterated his previous pledge that the Brotherhood will not field a candidate in the presidential election, expected to take place by the end of June 2012. Some had speculated that the Brotherhood would back down from this promise, after dropping earlier assurances that it would not seek more than 50 percent of the seats in the People’s Assembly.
In confirming that the Brotherhood will not seek to control the excutive branch, Badie said the group “prefers a semi-presidential system” with a strengthened parliament. It’s not surprising that the Brotherhood would advocate enhanced powers for the legislature, in light of early election results suggesting that Islamists could occupy more than 65 percent of the seats in the People’s Assembly.
With liberal parties winning less than 15 percent of the vote under the banner of the Egyptian bloc coalition, an Islamist majority is statistically inevitably. But rather than gloat about their landslide victory, the Brotherhood is trying to play nice with the losers. In his interview with al-Mehwar TV, Badie flatly denied speculation that the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) intends to dominate parliament as part of an Islamist bloc formed with the Salafis (who won a surprising 24.4 percent of the first round vote). At the same time, Badie stressed that the party is keen on coalition-building, saying that “progress in Egypt is not possible without agreement among all political forces.”
Badie also expressed support for the SCAF, stating that “the armed forces have our sincerest appreciation and respect for protecting the Egyptian people and their revolution, despite the fact that the Brothers were among those most damaged by the military [under Mubarak’s rule].” At the same time, Badie stressed that the Brotherhood would “will push [the SCAF] to meet all of the demands of the Egyptian people” if the military attempts to stall the transition.
While Badie indicated that the Brotherhood will push back if the SCAF refuses to relinquish power as promised by the end of June, his statements suggest that the alliance of convenience between the SCAF and the Brotherhood – forged in the earliest days of the transition – is still fundamentally intact. A major flashpoint and source of tension between the two – a controversial set of constitutional principles proposed by Deputy Prime Minister Ali al-Selmi in November – is now moot, following the cabinet’s resignation last week. Satisfied that the principles – which would have restricted the parliament’s influence over the drafting of the next constitution – are now dead in the water, the Brotherhood’s secretary general warned this week that anyone who tries to revive the principles “would die with them.” Armed with a powerful mandate and popular legitimacy, the Brotherhood will likely continue its cautious maneuvers to consolidate political power, by insisting that the majority in the People’s Assembly has the right to determine the composition of the constituent assembly and cabinet, while avoiding an overt confrontation with the SCAF.
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