Egypt's Brotherhood seeks to avoid clash with army

AP News
Posted: Dec 06, 2011 4:24 PM
Egypt's Brotherhood seeks to avoid clash with army

The leader of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist group expected to dominate the country's next parliament, said it does not seek to get into a power struggle with the ruling military council over the formation of the next government.

Egypt's military, which took control of the country from Hosni Mubarak upon his ouster in February, is insisting that it _ not the parliament _ will choose the next prime minister and his Cabinet, setting the stage for a contest over who will chart the nation's future course. Activists already critical of the military's handling of the transition period have been pushing the generals to shed their powers over government and deliver the country to full civilian rule.

The Brotherhood, which is leading the first round of parliamentary elections, had said previously it was expecting to form the Cabinet if its lead holds up over subsequent rounds of voting that finish in March.

However, Brotherhood leader Mohammed Badie is now sounding a less confrontational tone.

"We must live in harmony, not only with the military council, but with all of Egypt's factions, or else the conclusion is zero," Badie told the private Al-Mehwar TV station in an interview late Monday.

"There will be reconciliation between the three powers: the parliament, the government and the military ruling council."

Badie tried to play down a potential conflict with the military, saying: "They will not insist and we will not insist."

In a clear sign that the military is not giving up its powers over choosing the executive, Gen. Hassan el-Rueini, a member of the military council, said again that the new parliament will not have the authority to form a government.

The voting for parliament is being held in stages, with the election for the lower house scheduled to conclude in January and the upper house in March.

The Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party won about 37 percent of the first-round vote for the lower house, according to partial results released Sunday. The Al-Nour party won nearly a quarter of the vote for the ultraconservative Salafis, who seek to impose strict Islamic law in Egypt. That gave the two leading Islamist blocs an overwhelming majority of the vote, though they may not end up forming an alliance.

The Brotherhood shares many of the Salafis' fundamentalist beliefs but is more pragmatic and says it does not seek to impose a strict Islamic code on Egyptian society. Instead, it says its priorities are rebuilding the economy.

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The strong Islamist showing came at the expense of liberal youth groups that led the uprising against Mubarak.

Voters are choosing both individual candidates and party lists. Runoffs on Monday and Tuesday were to determine almost all the seats allocated for individuals in the first round, about a third of parliament's 498 seats.

In the meantime, an interim government led by a prime minister appointed by the military is to be sworn in on Wednesday and will govern Egypt until the elections conclude.

Kamal el-Ganzouri was named to the premiership last month after the previous interim administration resigned in the wake of violent clashes between protesters and police.

His appointment was designed to meet protesters' demands for a more empowered government that can deal with growing lawlessness and instability, social unrest and a battered economy.

On Tuesday, el-Ganzouri said the ruling generals will grant him more power to manage the government. But observers say those plans are cosmetic and are designed to deflate criticism of their management of the transition. The military rulers will retain powers over the armed forces and the judiciary.