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ICC Note:

The Muslim Brotherhood announced that it will increase the number of seats it plans to field in Egypt’s September elections, which could give the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party a significant minority in parliament. Secularists and Christians in Egypt are fearful that the Brotherhood – being Islamic based – will oppose the democracy and greater freedoms that were demanded by revolutionaries during the overthrow of former president Hosni Mubarak. The Brotherhood is the most organized and financed political party, and is viewed favorably by 75% of Egyptians, the Wall Street Journal reports.

By Matt Bradley

5/2/2011 Egypt (Wall Street Journal) – The Muslim Brotherhood said it will increase the number of seats for which it plans to field candidates in this fall’s parliamentary elections, in a sign of the increasing confidence of Egypt’s Islamists against a thin field of political competitors.

The Freedom and Justice Party, the Brotherhood’s new political party, will field candidates in about 45 to 50% of voting districts in elections scheduled for September. Brotherhood leaders previously said they were hoping to contest about a third of the seats.

The party appears to be holding to an earlier decision not to participate in presidential elections, which are supposed to take place before the end of November. The decision to field more candidates may be a sign of the organization’s increasing confidence in the Egyptian public’s appetite for political Islam following generations of largely secular, one-party rule.

But the move is also an indication of the group’s fitness as a political organization compared with its competitors. Other than the unpopular former ruling National Democratic Party—which was renamed the New National Party last month—the Brotherhood remains one of the only experienced, organized and powerful political parties in post revolutionary Egypt.

In an effort to confront the Brotherhood and other Islamists’ popularity at the polls, a group of mostly secular parties are forming a “joint list” of candidates. Such a list would divide the field of competition among parties, decreasing the possibility that like-minded politicians will compete against each other.

“We are targeting 30-35%, we are not targeting a majority,” said Essam El Erian, a senior Brotherhood leader. “If you are targeting 30-35%, you maybe double that.”
Such an explanation is unlikely to convince political observers and competitors who recall the Brotherhood leadership’s public assurances earlier this spring that they would only field candidates for one-third of the seats and they wouldn’t field a candidate for president. Those statements were widely perceived as aimed at quelling fears of an Islamist takeover.

Still, in a recent poll by the Pew Research Center, about 75% of Egyptians said they had either a favorable or a very favorable opinion of the Brotherhood.

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