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Africa

Muslim Brotherhood holds first public elections

media An Egyptian protester holds up a Koran while participating in a rally at Tahrir square in Cairo 29 July 2011. Thousands of Egyptians gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square to show Islamists and others were united in wanting change. Reuters/Mohamed Abd El-Ghany

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood has told RFI that its internal election on Saturday was an exercise in democracy. The previously banned group appointed three new senior figures for the organisation's newly formed Freedom and Justice party. The Brotherhood says a new political “era” in Egypt should be inclusive and take account of more conservative Islamic movements.

“Islam is compatible with democracy,” says spokesman Essam El-Eriam. “The Muslim Brotherhood applies democracy and chooses its leaders according to democratic rule through elections”.

Interview Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Essam El-Eriam 07/08/2011 - by Daniel Finnan Listen

The ballot resulted in the appointment of three senior figures: Abdel Azim Abou Seif, Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim and Hossam Abou Bakr.

The Brotherhood has previously come under fire for what some people see as support for the country’s Supreme Council of Armed Forces which took over from toppled President Hosni Mubarak.

However on Sunday the organisation’s political wing issued a statement criticising the appointment of governors from the former regime. It expressed concern over the role of Osama El-Fouly and Abel Labib in the government.

“We think that this is a transitional period, it needs solidarity and unity of the whole population. But now we are waiting for the new democratic era in Egypt which must be free and fair,” says Eriam.

The organisation is seen by some as one of Egypt’s most organised political forces following years of repression under the rule of Mubarak. In the 2005 election it won a fifth of the parliamentary seats when its candidates ran as independents.

Meanwhile, Egypt’s Sufis said on Sunday that they would hold a mass rally on Friday to counter the advance of Islamists in Egyptian politics, according to the Ahram publication.

Sheikh Mohamed Abdel Khalek el-Shabrawy, a senior Sufi leader, said the demonstration would be held under the banner “For the Love of Egypt”. It would advocate national unity, but also act as a counter to what Ahram calls a “rising tide of conservative Salafist forces”.

In reaction Eriam says that this rally shows that “all Egyptians now are working for a real democracy” which means “no dictatorship - not for the majority and not for the minority”.

Although he admits that ignoring Salafists, who are Islamic fundamentalists, may be more dangerous than their inclusion.

“Those are sectors of the society and must be included in political life. Without including them there may be of course some trouble. We need to include and have inclusive democracy open for all political societal groups,” he added.

Salafists are suspected of attacking Sufi shrines in the aftermath of the country’s uprising.

Islamists held a large protest on 29 July calling for the establishment of an Islamic state.

 
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