BEIRUT

Middle East

Brotherhood claim 46 pct of Egypt parliament

Mohammed Badie, head of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, speaks with former US president Jimmy Carter during a meeting in Cairo on January 12, 2012. (AFP PHOTO/STR)

CAIRO: The Muslim Brotherhood will control close to half the seats in the first Egyptian parliament elected since an uprising swept Hosni Mubarak from power last year, according to a projection posted by the group on Friday.

Underlining the depth of change in Egypt since Mubarak was toppled, the Islamist group banned under the ousted leader will secure 232 seats, or 46 percent, of the lower house in the election that started in November and is now drawing to a close.

The more hardline Nour Party, which advocates the strict application of Islamic law, has emerged with 113 seats, or 23 percent, putting Islamists of different stripes in control of more than two thirds of the chamber, according to the figures.

A spokesman for the Salafi Nour Party put their share slightly higher, at 120 seats.

The results, which reflected a pattern seen since voting got under way, were posted on the Facebook page of the Freedom and Justice Party, the Brotherhood's political wing. They are based on results from the latest round of voting.

Though the Brotherhood now looks set to have a major say over government in the Arab world's most populous country, the army generals who assumed power from Mubarak in February are due to rule until the end of June.

By then, Egypt should have an elected president according to the timetable set out by the ruling military council. The Brotherhood has said it will not contest the presidency.

"Indications from the final results of the elections: 'Islamist Islamist'," declared Friday's frontpage headline of Al Masry Al Youm, one of Egypt's most widely read newspapers.

Able to organise through the mosque and long-established grassroots networks, the Islamists were better placed than others to exploit the political freedoms that emerged after Mubarak was toppled.

The remaining seats will be parceled out among liberals, independents, politicians formerly linked to the Mubarak era and other groups including those which played a role in triggering the revolt against Mubarak, according to the FJP projection.

The authorities have yet to declare the final results. Though the elections' three main phases are now over, there will be more voting next week in constituencies where results were cancelled due to irregularities.

Despite their dominance, analysts warn against viewing the Islamists as a monolithic bloc.

The Brotherhood appears anxious to project a moderate image to ease concerns about what a government led by Islamists could mean for Egypt, a country whose economy depends on tourism and which has a peace treaty with Israel.

Underlining their new role, FJP leaders received the number two official in the U.S. State Department this week. It was the highest level meeting between the group and the United States since Mubarak, a close U.S. ally, was deposed.

FJP leaders have listed priorities including enhancing living standards -- about 40 percent of Egyptians live on less than $2 a day -- and underpinning political freedoms.

Under the transition plan, the parliament's main task is to pick a 100-member body that will draft a new constitution to replace the one that kept Mubarak in power for three decades. The FJP supports the idea of a system which would move more power to the parliament, diluting the president's authority.

In the interim, FJP leaders have said they will work with the government led by Kamal al-Ganzouri, who was appointed by the military council in November.

Their cooperation with the military council has angered groups which do not believe the generals' repeated promises that they will leave power by the middle of the year.

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter echoed that concern during a visit to Egypt this week. His Carter Center, which has been monitoring the legislative elections, said in a statement the council's lack of transparency had created "uncertainty about their commitment to full civilian leadership".

"The excessive use of force by the security apparatus, the continuation of the Emergency Law, the use of military tribunals for trying civilian suspects, and the crackdown on civil society organizations has created an atmosphere of distrust," it said.

Commenting on the election result, it said the vote appeared to be "a broadly accurate expression of the will of the voters".

 

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