SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt: The Egyptian government wants to prevent the Muslim Brotherhood forming a parliamentary group by winning seats as independents in future elections, Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif said on Saturday. The Brotherhood, a well-established Islamist movement which says it is committed to political reform by peaceful means, won a fifth of the seats in the Egyptian parliament last November and December, putting the ruling party on the defensive. The members stood as independents in the election because the government does not recognize the Brotherhood and has refused to let the organization form a political party, on the grounds that it would be based on religion. Nazif told Reuters in an interview: Islamists who say they belong to an illegal organization have been able to go into parliament and act in a format that would make them seem like a political party … We need to think clearly about how to prevent this from happening. He said the government could not take way the right of individual citizens from running for parliament but members of the Brotherhood were different. We have a secret organization represented in parliament. They are not individuals, he said. The prime minister s remarks were another indication the Egyptian government is having second thoughts about some of the concessions it made to the political opposition last year when it was under U.S. pressure to loosen up the political system. In recent weeks, Egyptian police have taken a much tougher approach to street protests. Plainclothes security men have beaten, kicked and clubbed people demonstrating peacefully in support of judges demanding independence from the executive. Nazif dismissed multiple eyewitness accounts of attacks on protesters and said since there are other channels for expressing dissent only thugs would take to the streets. Why blame the police? I am frankly fed up by the fact that people are blaming those who are trying to keep the peace against the people who are trying to break the peace, he said. Earlier on Saturday Nazif said his government was not in a hurry to change the country s political system. It doesn t take a month or two or six. It will take years … We have the time. We are not in a hurry, he told reporters at a breakfast before the opening of a World Economic Forum meeting in the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh. He said that after the electoral success of the Islamists, the government had to think again about the course of reform. You need to recalculate, you need to revisit some of your assumptions, to make sure you are really on the right track but in the end I don t think there is any way to go back on this. The prime minister said one of his economic priorities was to reorganize the system of subsidies, which cost the government LE 40 billion ($7 billion) a year for energy alone and are the biggest factor in a budget deficit running at about 9 percent of gross domestic product. He said the strategy would be to target the poor with cash subsidies tied to the families sending their children to school and taking part in literacy and family planning programs. But he gave no timetable for changing the system. Nazif said he was confident the Egyptian stock market could ride out the effect of sharp declines in Gulf markets. Their price/earning ratios are three times as much as ours so our market is still very attractive one and I think it will continue to be so, he said. The market has reacted very gracefully so far and I think with the kind of growth that we are seeing here in Egypt I m not worried. The market is developing in a solid way, he added.