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Egypt’s Islamists to Dominate First Post-Mubarak Parliament

Jan. 21 (Bloomberg) -- 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 said 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.

The new parliament, due to hold its first session on Jan. 23, “is the best celebration of the Egyptian revolution,” Freedom and Justice said in a statement.

Of the 332 members of parliament elected from party lists, Freedom and Justice won 127, Election Commission head Abdel Moez Ibrahim told reporters in Cairo today. 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 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 Jan. 25, the anniversary of the start of the uprising against Mubarak, to demand the generals transfer power to civilians.

Military Power

“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 will release 1,959 prisoners convicted by military courts after the Jan. 25 uprising, the Middle East News Agency reported, citing the head of the military judicial committee, Brigadier General Adel el-Mursi. Among those to be released are Maikel Nabil, an internet blogger, state-run Mena said.

The council said it would cede power when a president is elected in a national vote by the end of June. In comments published by the state-run Middle East News Agency on Jan. 17, Tantawi said Egypt is facing “grave and unprecedented dangers” and urged Egyptians to be vigilant to thwart “plots and conspiracies” being woven for their country.

Islam’s Role

“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 percent in the fiscal year through June, the slowest pace in at least a decade. Tourist arrivals fell 33 percent last year, while international reserves are at the lowest level since March 2005.

Egypt formally requested a $3.2 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund on Jan. 16 to help it support the economy.

To contact the reporters on this story: Mariam Fam in Cairo at mfam1@bloomberg.net; Abdel Latif Wahba in Cairo at alatifwahba@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net

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