Egypt Islamist Party Chief Meets With Opposition to Ease Tension

The head of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party said he met with opposition leaders, including Nobel Laureate Mohamed ElBaradei, amid a push to ease political tensions that have triggered violence.

The announcement by Saad El-Katatni, who had held the post of parliament speaker in the now-dissolved legislature’s lower house, marks the latest step by political rivals to bridge a divide that has stunted economic recovery and stability efforts. The news of the meeting came in an e-mailed statement from the party.

ElBaradei and other critics of President Mohamed Mursi have argued the Islamist leader is intent on bolstering the Brotherhood’s power at the expense of the nation’s broader interests. Weeks of unrest that boiled over after the Islamists and the opposition signed a deal renouncing violence have left over 50 dead and presented Mursi with his most serious political crisis since taking office at the end of June.

The meeting came as the Brotherhood’s party wrapped up two days of internal discussions aimed at charting a course forward ahead of upcoming parliamentary elections, for which a date has yet to be determined. While it secured the largest bloc of seats in the now-dissolved parliament, the FJP faces new challenges as Mursi’s popularity has waned amid criticism of his stewardship of the country. The economy has been growing at the slowest pace in two decades since Hosni Mubarak’s ouster.

Living Standards

The party agreed to concentrate its efforts on building state institutions and working to boost living standards for Egyptians through concerted work with the state and charitable organizations, the Freedom and Justice Party said in an e-mailed statement. It will also concentrate on establishing a “fundamental basis for building the economy of a state facing many challenges,” it said.

The Islamist party has launched an initiative over the past few weeks aimed at providing help to the country’s neediest citizens, including free medical care and at-cost goods. The effort was a throw-back to the Brotherhood’s traditional methods of building grassroots support, which they honed as an opposition group under Mubarak, whose ouster in 2011 paved the way for their rise to political power.

The group also said it was immediately starting on its election platform, including taking into consideration alliances, to ensure it secures a majority in the next parliament.

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