EGYPT. The Muslim Brotherhood’s party alliance emerged as the largest group in Egypt’s new parliament, two days before the assembly’s first meeting following the ouster of Hosni Mubarak almost a year ago.
The alliance led by the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party won 235 of the 498 elected seats in the lower house, party spokesman Ahmed Sobea told Bloomberg today by phone. The head of the ruling military council, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, assigned 10 non-elected members to the parliament, Al Jazeera television reported.
Of the 332 members of parliament elected from party lists, Freedom and Justice won 127, the elections commission head, Abdel Moez Ibrahim, told reporters in Cairo. The more conservative Salafi Muslim bloc led by the Nour party took 96 seats, while two secular groups placed third and fourth, with the Wafd party obtaining 36 seats and the Egyptian Bloc getting 33 seats, he said.
The assembly, due to hold its first session on January 23, is supposed to select a committee that will write a new constitution, though the exact powers of parliament remain unclear.
Seven weeks of elections have failed to allay tensions between the activists who ousted Mubarak and the military council that took power from the former president. Protesters are calling for mass rallies on January 25, the anniversary of the start of the uprising against Mubarak, to demand the generals transfer power to civilians.
“The military is still the most anti-democratic force in Egyptian politics and the challenge for the Brotherhood and the other parties in parliament is how best to manage the military,” Shadi Hamid, director of research at the Brookings Doha Center in Qatar, said by phone today. “The goal now is to ease them out of power. Everyone agrees on that goal, but there’s divergence on how best to do that.”
The military council said it would cede power when a president is elected in a national vote by the end of June. Tantawi will address the opening session of parliament, according to the state-run Al Ahram newspaper.
In comments published by the state-run Middle East News Agency on January 17, he said Egypt is facing “grave and unprecedented dangers” and urged Egyptians to be vigilant to thwart “plots and conspiracies” being woven for their country.
“The bottom line is that this is the first freely elected parliament in modern Egyptian history,” Hamid said. “Egypt is different than many of its neighbors in the region in that Egypt is more conservative and that Egyptians are more open to Islam playing a larger role in society.”
The unrest of the past year has curbed tourist arrivals and foreign investment and lowered economic growth to 1.8% in the fiscal year through June, the slowest pace in at least a decade. Tourist arrivals fell 33% last year, while international reserves are at the lowest level since March 2005.
Egypt formally requested a US$3.2 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund to help it support the economy.