Egypt: Muslim Brotherhood plans political party

Egypt’s long banned Muslim Brotherhood said Tuesday it intends to form a political party once democracy is established, as the country’s new military rulers launched a panel of experts to amend the country’s constitution enough to allow democratic elections later this year.

The panel is to draw up changes at a breakneck pace – within 10 days – to end the monopoly that ousted President Hosni Mubarak’s ruling party once held, which it ensured through widespread election rigging. The initial changes may not be enough for many in Egypt calling for the current constitution, now suspended by the military, to be thrown out completely and rewritten to ensure no one can once again establish autocratic rule. Two members on the panel said the next elected government could further change the document if it choses.

The military’s choices for the panel’s makeup were a sign of the new political legitimacy of the Muslim Brotherhood, the fundamentalist group that was the most bitter rival of Mubarak’s regime. Among the panel’s members is Sobhi Saleh, a former lawmaker from the Brotherhood seen as part of its reformist wing.

The eight-member committee, which met with Defense Minister Hussein Tantawi on Tuesday, also includes a Christian supreme court judge, along with other judges and legal experts, one of its members Mohammed Hassanein Abdel-Al, a legal scholar told The Associated Press. The panel is headed by Tareq el-Bishri, a widely respected former judge and scholar who was once a secular leftist but later became one of the most foremost thinkers of what Egyptians refer to as the “moderate Islamic” political trend and is seen as a bridge between the movements.

The panel’s convening indicated the military was trying to push ahead quickly with a transition after Mubarak resigned Friday in the face of 18 days of unprecedented popular protests that massed hundreds of thousands. The military is now also urging an end to labor strikes that spread wildly across the country Sunday and Monday, unleashed by the turmoil.

The strikes, many hitting state agencies and industries, are a further blow to Egypt’s economy, damaged by the three weeks of upheaval. Egypt’s Foreign Minster Ahmed Aboul Gheit called on the international community to provide aid to boost Egypt’s economy.

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