The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt announced that their newly established political party, the Justice and Freedom Party, seeks to establish a modern state based on a constitutional foundation.
Hilmi al-Jazzar, a leader in the new party and member of the Brotherhood's Shura Council, told Al-Shorfa that the party aims to establish a state "with an elected parliament and significant judicial oversight."
"[The party] decided not to run in any elections in the future using the slogan 'Islam is the solution' as it has done in the past," al-Jazzar said. "The party's programmes are fashioned by humans and are not sacrosanct", noting that the party's leadership "decided instead on the slogan 'Freedom is the solution, and justice is the application'".
Al-Jazzar said the party "is a centrist party open to all Egyptians and intends to cooperate with all national political forces for the advancement of the country," adding that "the criticism of democracy by some Islamist groups is misplaced, and there is no conflict between theocratic and intellectual [views] provided a constitution exists that is accepted by the populace."
The Muslim Brotherhood officially submitted its founding documents to the party affairs committee of the administrative court at the state council headquarters last week. The party will become official on June 17th if no objections are raised against it.
According to press statements made by Saad Katatni, secretary-general of the party, there are 1,288 founding members, including 879 women and 39 Copts. In total, 52% of its members are from outside the Muslim Brotherhood.
During the presidencies of Mubarak and his predecessor Anwar Sadat, the Brotherhood focused on advocacy work to preach the teachings of Islam, which enhanced its popularity and enabled it to gain support among the public in various provinces.
Many observers fear the group may not succeed in separating advocacy work from political activity if clear divisions are not made between the group and the political party. They also expressed reservations that the group might exploit advocacy for political gain.
Writer and political activist Dina Samak said, "The separation of the Brotherhood and the party is hard to achieve. When the Brotherhood says that none of its members are permitted to join any other party, it means that this party is going to be a Brotherhood party and not a party that expresses views similar to the Brotherhood."
Samak also casts doubts on the Brotherhood's stance in relation to the party's commitment to a civilian and secular state.
"When the Muslim Brotherhood talks about a civilian state, they are manipulating the term and intend it to mean that it is a non-military state ruled by civilians, which is completely different than how liberal powers define the [civilian/secular] state in Egypt which is wanted by everyone," she said.
"It is difficult during the initial phase to attain complete separation between the group and the party," said Mohammed al-Qassas, a Muslim Brotherhood youth representative in the Revolution Youth Coalition. "Conservative leaders in the group fear a complete separation because they believe it would hurt the group's cohesive organisational structure that could lead to a split in the ranks later on."
"There should be total separation between the party and the group on the financial, administrative, and political levels," he said. "The party should not play a preaching role and should allow all Brotherhood members to freely join any party they believe is consistent with their political views, not just the Freedom and Justice Party."
He said the election of Freedom and Justice Party members must be "on the basis of their political agenda, not their religion", an ideal that was illustrated by the selection of Rafiq Habib, a Coptic Christian, as vice chairman of the party's foreign relations. Habib worked for over 20 years as a researcher specialising in Islamist groups and political Islam.
The Muslim Brotherhood announced in early May that it would compete for only half the seats in parliament. The group won 88 seats in the 2005 parliamentary elections in a fierce competition with the former ruling National Democratic party.
Essam al-Erian, a Muslim Brotherhood leader and vice president of the Freedom and Justice Party, told Al-Shorfa, "The party's goal is to win between 30 and 35% [of the seats] only, but it will contest 50% of the seats as a safety measure to ensure the attainment of the desired 30 to 35% goal."
Brotherhood members said they will not field a candidate for presidential elections.