Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, which set up the Freedom and Justice Party, is expected to emerge as the strongest player in parliamentary elections that end in January. Following are facts and figures on one of the world’s oldest Islamist groups:
Origins: The Brotherhood was founded in 1928 in Ismailia by Hassan al-Banna, a teacher, and workers from the Suez Canal Company. Initially a social organization that set up hospitals and teaching programs, its opposition to colonialist rule gained it widespread popular support across the Middle East. By the late 1940s it had grown branches in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. It has come into conflict with the secular governments of several Middle Eastern countries.
Ideology: The movement’s earliest stated mission was to promote Islamic laws, values and morals in Egyptian society, adopting slogans such as “Islam is the Solution.” Brotherhood members have espoused a wide variety of views since the movement was founded. While the group officially opposes violent means to achieving its goals, the writings of Sayyid Qutub, a prominent Brotherhood member in the 1950s and 1960s, helped shape the ideologies of later jihadist groups such as al-Qaeda and splinter parties such as Hamas.
Policies: The Brotherhood has adopted a pro-business stance in the run-up to parliamentary elections, saying it supports private enterprise and engagement with the global economy. The group said it would create jobs by directing more investment than the previous regime did toward industries, agriculture and information technology. It also said it wants to trim the budget deficit and increase the use of Islamic bonds.
Organization: The highest body of the Ikhwan, as the Brotherhood is known in Arabic, is the General Organizational Conference, formed of deputies elected by local branches of the party. The Shura Council has the task of setting out policies while the Executive Office implements them. The Brotherhood is financed by contributions from its members and supporters.
Elections: Brotherhood candidates first ran for parliament in the 1980s, standing as independents due to a ban on the organization. Its most successful electoral showing was in 2005, when its candidates won 88 seats, or about 20 percent of the total. Following the first round of voting this week, the Brotherhood claimed an early lead for the Freedom and Justice Party, its proxy, saying it may have won at least 40 percent of ballots.
Given the complexity of the Egyptian electoral system, which stipulates that half the elected members are registered as “workers and farmers” and uses a closed proportional list system for two-thirds of the seats in parliament, the Brotherhood’s parliamentary strength is unlikely to become clear until final election results are announced in January.