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Egyptian Brotherhood may participate in referendum, says acting leader - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat—Rafiq Habib, acting head of Egypt’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, has suggested for the first time that the party may take part in the forthcoming referendum on the proposed amendments to the Egyptian constitution.

The FJP’s newspaper published the second part of an article by Habib on Saturday, in which he presented a number of scenarios to “defeat the coup,” referring to the Egyptian military’s toppling of Brotherhood-backed president Mohamed Mursi on July 3. In his article, Habib suggested that one of the possible scenarios was “democratic revolution” via the rejection of the constitutional amendments in the referendum.

Until now, the Brotherhood has rejected the ouster of Mursi and vowed to defeat the “coup” and return Mursi to office through popular protests. It has also rejected the political initiatives launched by the Egyptian interim government, including plans to amend the constitution passed during Mursi’s time in office, as illegitimate.

Habib’s article is likely to be seen by observers as the first sign that the Brotherhood is considering rejoining the political process. Habib refused to comment, telling Asharq Al-Awsat that “he would not make comments to the press at this stage.”

Habib resigned last year from a position as adviser to Mursi, and from his position as deputy chair of the Freedom and Justice Party, one day after Brotherhood supporters attacked protesters outside the Ittihadiyah Presidential Palace on December 5, 2012.

Senior sources within the Freedom and Justice Party, however, informed Asharq Al-Awsat yesterday that Habib agreed to return to the party to become the acting chair in place of party chairman Saad El-Katatni, who is in prison awaiting trial on criminal charges.

Habib said in the newspaper article that “if the military coup continued with its roadmap against the revolution and democracy and reached a stage of a referendum on constitutional amendments which may lead to militarizing and secularizing the state, then the movement against the coup would be faced with an unusual democratic test—especially if the indications pointed to the possibility of a transparent referendum.”

He added that “in the event of a transparent referendum being possible, the battle between the coup and the movement against the coup would move to the ballot box, within the democratic process.”

Politicians have welcomed the participation of the Brotherhood in the political process, although they expressed doubt that the vision of Habib was representative of the general view within the Brotherhood.

The chairman of the Socialist Alliance Party, Abdel-Ghaffar Shukr, said: “This is very good. It is important to join the political process and not boycott it. This is a democratic struggle as long as they stop using violence.”

However, Shukr expressed his view that the majority in the Brotherhood may not support the views of Habib, adding that “the Brotherhood previously rejected statements from their spokesman, Hamza Zawbaa.”

Zawbaa had published an opinion column in the FJP’s newspaper that included admission of mistakes by the Brotherhood and President Mursi during his one-year rule, and called for dropping the demand for Mursi’s return to power in exchange for a guarantee of political participation and a call for national reconciliation, and an apology by the army for the deaths and injuries of Brotherhood supporters.

Meanwhile, Dr. Hassan Nafaa, political science lecturer at Cairo University, said the Brotherhood was relying on a strategy of draining the state in order to topple it after losing hope of returning to power.

He added that the current crisis lies in the fact that the Egyptian government was confronted with enormous economic, political and social problems, which makes the Brotherhood’s gamble on draining the government more viable. However, he warned that this could lead to “double failure” and would not resolve the crisis.

In the meantime, Rifaat Al-Said, the former head of the Tagammu’a (Rally) Party, said: “The Brotherhood are feeling isolated, especially since they are discovering public anger growing against them daily. The Brotherhood had been through great crises. They clashed with King Farouk and Gamal Abdel-Nasser, but now they are at odds with the public and the public were smart in not raising the slogan demanding to topple Mursi, but called for the toppling of the rule of the guide [the Muslim Brotherhood’s general guide, the spiritual leader of the organization].”