CAIRO: Minister of Legal Affairs & Parliamentary Councils Moufid Shehab stated that the Muslim Brotherhood doesn’t exist according to Egyptian laws, saying the “banned” group won’t replicate its successful run in the 2005 elections this year.
“That’s absurd,” Muslim Brotherhood MP Mohamed El Beltagi told Daily News Egypt. “The reality proves [Shehab] wrong.”
Al-Wafd MP Mohamed Moustafa Sherdy concurred. “The Brotherhood has existed on the political scene since the beginning of the 20th century and I don’t think the government’s wish will make them disappear,” he told Daily News Egypt.
According to state-run daily Al Gomhuria, Shehab also stated that any Muslim Brotherhood member who attempts to run in the upcoming parliamentary elections this November — under either the Muslim Brotherhood title or under one of its slogans — will have his candidacy rejected by the Supreme Electoral Commission.
Shehab said that the Muslim Brotherhood was able in the 2005 parliamentary elections because its members ran as independents.
“In order to run for Parliamentary elections, you have to run as a member of an official political party or as an independent candidate. The Muslim Brotherhood isn’t a political party, so we have to run as independents,” said El-Beltagi.
In 2005, the Muslim Brotherhood won 88 seats or almost 20 percent of the 445 seats, making it the biggest opposition bloc in parliament dominated by members of the ruling National Democratic Party.
“The people chose us in 2005 as members of the Muslim Brotherhood,” said El-Beltagi. “We campaigned as members of the Muslim Brotherhood and used the same slogans and principles, but officially we were considered independents by the Supreme Electoral Commission.”
The Administrative Court ruled in 2005 in favor of the Muslim Brotherhood candidates using their slogan “Islam is the Solution” when campaigning in the parliamentary elections.
This verdict cited Article 2 of the Egyptian constitution, which states that “Islam is the religion of the state. Arabic is its official language, and the principal source of legislation is Islamic Jurisprudence (Sharia).”
“The opposition groups — including the Muslim Brotherhood — aren’t waiting for a non-democratic government to give them legitimacy,” Karima El-Hefnawy, a member of the National Association for Change and the Kefaya Movement for Change, told Daily News Egypt. “The NDP is the illegitimate party … the Muslim Brotherhood is legitimate.”
The Muslim Brotherhood announced last week that they are going to participate in the parliamentary elections in November, disregarding calls from several opposition groups to boycott the elections.
The government detained 170 Muslim Brotherhood members across 17 governorates following the announcement, according to Abdel-Moneim Abdel-Maqsoud, the group’s lawyer.
“Seventy-six of them remained in custody, while the rest were released,” Abdel-Maqsoud told Daily News Egypt.
The defendants were detained for allegedly joining a banned group that aims to violate the constitution, as well as for allegedly possessing publications that promote the ideology of a banned group.
“The government usually resorts to these methods before the parliamentary elections in an attempt to reduce the Muslim Brotherhood’s campaigning activities [and thereby] preventing them from winning,” Abdel-Maqsoud said.
“The judicial system hasn’t managed to issue a verdict to disband the Muslim Brotherhood to this day, so the Muslim Brotherhood still stands,” he added.
Nabil Abdel-Fattah, a researcher at Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, described the government’s stance towards the Muslim Brotherhood as “contradictive.”
“On one hand, the law officially considers the group banned,” Abdel-Fattah told Daily News Egypt. “On the other hand, the government allows them to publicly perform political and social activities as a group.”
Abdel-Fattah added that the Muslim Brotherhood has a powerful presence in the political and social arena.
“[The Muslim Brotherhood] got into parliament, [and] they hold prominent posts in many syndicates — including the Journalists and the Lawyers’ Syndicates,” said Abdel-Fattah.
Shehab said that the only reason the Muslim Brotherhood won those many seats in 2005 was the lack of participation of powerful political parties.
He added that this year, powerful parties — including Al-Wafd and Al Tagammou — will run in the elections, thus reducing the Muslim Brotherhood’s opportunity to repeat their 2005 results.
However, Abdel-Fattah believes that the current political situation in Egypt is “stagnant.”
“Political life in Egypt died around 58 years ago as a result of the lack of true political competition between different parties,” he said.