January 9, 2012 / 8:03 PM / 8 years ago

Islamists signal won't press for Egypt government change

CAIRO (Reuters) - The Islamist group set to win Egypt’s parliamentary election said the ruling military council must stick to its timetable for ceding power but indicated it would not immediately seek to replace a government appointed by the generals.

The Muslim Brotherhood statement appeared to reinforce a view that the group will avoid confrontation with the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces for what remains of a transitional period set to end on June 30, after a new president is elected.

Banned under Hosni Mubarak, the 83-year-old Brotherhood was best placed to exploit political freedoms that emerged after he was ousted from power by an uprising ignited by youth groups which are demanding the generals leave power right away.

The Brotherhood estimates its Freedom and Justice Party has won 41 percent of the seats decided so far in the election for the lower house of parliament which got under way in November and is now in its final stage.

The Nour Party, a more hardline Islamist group, has won 20 percent, the Brotherhood numbers show. Elections for the upper house begin later this month and conclude in February.

The elections are Egypt’s first free legislative polls since military officers overthrew the monarchy in 1952.

During the first stage of voting, FJP leader Mohamed Mursi said the majority in the new parliament should form a government - comments which appeared to be a call for Prime Minister Kamal al-Ganzouri’s removal and set the Brotherhood at odds with the military council.

In the statement issued by the FJP on Monday, the group said it would “work to respect the powers and jurisdictions between the military council, the elected parliament and the temporary government for the sake of completing the interim period”.

Exercising the presidential powers held by Mubarak, the military council appointed Ganzouri, who served as a prime minister under the ousted president, in November.

The council has said it will cede powers to an elected president by the end of June. The FJP statement “underlined the importance of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces commitment to the timeframe for the transfer of power”.

The Brotherhood has said it will not contest the presidency.

Revolutionary groups unhappy with the lack of change in Egypt since Mubarak was toppled are angry with the Brotherhood for not pressing the military council to leave power immediately.

The military council has responded to pressure from the street by accelerating the timetable for handing over power.

According to the transition plan, the new legislature will pick a 100-person body that will draw up a new constitution to replace the one that underpinned Mubarak’s three decades in power.

The FJP said the body must represent “all elements of the nation”, reiterating an inclusive message which appears aimed at easing fears in the West and among Egyptians worried about the Islamists’ dominant performance in the elections.

While the Nour Party and the Freedom and Justice Party have beaten the rest, it remains to be seen whether they will compete or cooperate in the new assembly.

Some analysts believe the Brotherhood may shun the Nour Party, which seeks a strict application of Islamic law, and instead reach out to liberal groups to shore up its moderate image.

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